Matt Stoller: Understanding the Strategy of the Democratic Power Class

Yves here. I took the liberty of lifting this comment by Matt Stoller from a recent post, since it is informative in its own right and relevant to the piece today dissecting a mortgage proposal advanced by a think tank with close ties to the Administration.

By Matt Stoller, the former Senior Policy Advisor for Rep. Alan Grayson. His Twitter feed is @matthewstoller

Since the 1970s, Democratic elites have focused on breaking public sector unions and financializing the economy. Carter, not Reagan, started the defense build-up. Carter, not Reagan, lifted usury caps. Carter, not Reagan, first cut capital gains taxes. Clinton, not Bush, passed NAFTA. It isn’t the base of the Democratic party that did this, but then, voters in America have never had a lot of power because they are too disorganized. And there wasn’t a substantial grassroots movement to challenge this, either.

Obama continues this trend. It isn’t that he’s not fighting, he fights like hell for what he wants. He whipped incredibly aggressively for TARP, he has passed emergency war funding (breaking a campaign promise) several times, and nearly broke the arms of feckless liberals in the process. I mean, when Bernie Sanders did the filiBernie, Obama flirted with Bernie’s potential 2012 GOP challenger. Obama just wants policies that cement the status of a aristocratic class, with crumbs for everyone else (Republican elites disagree in that they hate anyone but elites getting crumbs). And he will fight for them.

There is simply no basis for arguing that Democratic elites are pursuing poor strategy anymore. They are achieving an enormous amount of leverage within the party. Consider the following. Despite Obama violating every core tenet of what might have been considered the Democratic Party platform, from supporting foreclosures to destroying civil liberties to torturing political dissidents to wrecking unions, Obama has no viable primary challenger. Moreover, no Senate Democratic incumbent lost a primary challenge in 2010, despite a horrible governing posture. Now THAT is a successful strategy, it minimized the losses of the Democratic elite and kept them firmly in control of the party. Thus, the political debate remains confined to what neoliberals want to talk about. It’s a good strategy, it’s just you are the one the strategy is being played on.

A lot of people think that Obama is a bad poker player, but they miss the point. He’s not playing with his money, he’s playing with YOUR money. You are the weak hand at the table, he’s colluding with the other players.

There are parts of the Democratic elite that don’t believe in neoliberalism, but they are a modest portion of that structure. So often what comes out of the party is garbled. Most Democrats support our reigning institutions, they believe in paying taxes, they believe in government power. Given a choice, they’ll grumble, but they are more willing to believe that this government is good than to support structural change. By contrast, the Republicans are unified in their desire for a more brutal and more plutocratic though otherwise unchanged institutional arrangement.

This makes the GOP seem more committed, more professional and more change-oriented. This isn’t poor strategy or coordination from Democratic elites. The lack of willingness to fight on behalf of the public isn’t the same of an unwillingness to fight. It’s just their unwillingness to fight anyone but you.

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  1. Parvaneh Ferhad

    Right on the mark. Elite is elite, whether the call themselves Republican or Democrat. They essentially have the same goal, which is to protect their own, their way of life, their power and their influence.
    The same can be said for most Social Democrats in Europe. They are not at all leftists, they are deeply bourgeois in their thinking an the policies they pursue. However, they keep posing as ‘Socialists’ which they are clearly not, which can be clearly seen from their actions.

    1. sgt_doom

      This is an obvious and applicable comment, and I’m not criticizing it in anyway, but it’s something so many have been saying for quite a few years (Ralph Nader, Michael Parenti, Chris Hedges, Glen Ford [], and many, many others, Michael Hudson on the econ side, along with Ha-Joon Chang, James Galbraith, etc., etc., etc.).

      Only Noam Chomsky (staunch defender of the status quo — as if MIT would ever hire anything else!!!), Krugman the faux economist, that fraudster Jeremy Lifkin, and Jeffrey Sachs would claim otherwise.

      Stiglitz, once one of the questionable guys, has repudiated the World Bankster, and reformed himself to be on correct siid of the Force.

      But it goes a bit further: the R-Cons claim that cap-and-trade is baaaad, so therefore so-called dems side with the faux crats who embrace cap-and-trade, that latest Wall Street “shadow banking” scam.

      Same goes for the Heritage Foundation-created “healthcare reform” (or backdoor insurance and pharmaceutical industry bailouts).

      The fact remains: with the retirement of Dorgan from the US Senate, and Feingold getting voted out (an awesome travesty if there ever was one), there are no authentic democrats in the Senate, and now only three true dems in the House (Kucinich, Defazio and Marcy Kapture).

      Still, I appreciate his comments. (And this present presidential administration should properly be called:

      the Obama-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Reagan Administration.)

    2. Nathanael

      There used to be an elite which understood that their long-term interest lies in “bread and circuses” for the masses. Indeed, the elite’s long-term interest in keeping the masses happy enough that they will maintain the position of the elite.

      This strategy, of appeasing the lower classes, is what has caused Britain’s upper classes to maintain their positions for hundreds of years, while those of France and Russia went to the guillotine and the firing squad.

      In fact, some of our elites in the US — Warren Buffett, George Soros — are sounding the alarm. But even they seem to have been unable to get the message through to *Obama*, let alone the rest of the elites. Obama is barely even trying to appease the masses, and yet he is doing more than the Republicans, who have a “kill the poor” attitude.

      Obama’s measures are not enough to prevent a bloody revolution, and yet the “opposition” party encourages policy which would be even more socially destabilizing.

      The fact that elites run things is a truism, and an unimportant one. The fact that they run them for their own benefit is obvious, and not necessarily that problematic if they possess enlightened self-interest.

      But I’m not seeing any enlightenment from right-wing Democrats like Obama, let alone from the batshit crazy Republicans.

      1. Richard Kline

        So Nathanael, the 1% have secceeded from the polity, and the rest of the 10% want nothing more than to follow them: it really _is_ a policy shift. It doesn’t matter to those on top if the total pie shrinks by x so long as their own share expands by y. And recall that the oligarchy makes a significant portion of its golden thaler abroad now. The oligarchy simply doesn’t need the rest of the citizenry, other than to fill the bottom tiers of the military and securacracy. There’s nothing mystifying about it: it’s social treason in a way, they’ve pulled their interests out of a common state by controlling the apparatus of governance.

  2. M.InTheCity

    Great comment!

    The acceleration of the atomisation of individuals was a purposeful strategy. The elites don’t want the people organized – they want them in little interest groups. I just don’t know how the US people would be able to organise to stop this. With other countries that are smaller, it is much easier to get people organized – case in point is Iceland. People with torches and pitchforks, job done. The Athenians weren’t entirely wrong with the city/state structure, if you want some semblance of democratic life.

    1. bookit

      A major principle of the Napoleonic Code was individualism before the law because Napoleon realized individualism always strengthens the state in the end. By contrast, Edmund Burke and Montesquieu, two writers “conservatives” would read if they weren’t really classic liberals, stressed that so-called “intermediary institutions” such as guilds, town councils, estates, etc., were all that really kept the king in check. Burke called them the “little platoons” on which society stood, or something to that effect.

      1. ChrisTiburon

        Probably why Huey Long was able to scare the hell out of the ruling class in Lousiana and invoke the ruling class’s counter proposal of the New Deal.

      2. Dave of Maryland

        Which is why the original Constitution was so brilliant. Who elected the first president? State legislatures. Who elected the first senators? State legislators. This not only gave states a foothold in Washington, it made Senators peers of the President. Way more powerful than they are now.

        As it was originally written, the Senate represented the States, the House represented the People, the President represented the States, with impeachment the means by which the People could control him. When the Vice-President was runner up in the contest, that gave him an incentive to hold the Prez’s feet to the fire. It was well-thought out.

        Sound like an entirely different machine? It was.

        But the Constitution as it was written was hard. It was difficult. We were lazy. It meant the Man on Horseback had to go round & beg from a lot of people. It was so much easier to go over the heads of the states, directly to the people, generate a popular whirlwind & get the brash, inexperienced yokel elected as president. We’ve had so many of them. Few have been memorable.

        It’s not true there is no one in the wings. Jeb Bush is in the wings. I’d lay money that he’s the next president, as he will easily demolish Palin. His time as governor of Florida proves he is a competent administrator, and that he is as corrupt as they come. I’m debating. I think I’d settle for competent & corrupt. Reminds me of Richard Nixon. It would be an improvement over incompetent but hopeful.

        1. ChrisTiburon

          “His time as governor of Florida proves he is a competent administrator”Coffee spewing time!


          “A government money market debacle unfolding in Florida is raising questions about former governor and presidential brother Jeb Bush’s possible involvement in the mess. Florida froze withdrawals from a state investment fund earlier this week when local governments withdrew billions of dollars out of concern for the fund’s financial stability. In the past few days, municipalities have withdrawn roughly $9 billion, nearly a third of the $28 billion fund (which is similar to a money market fund) controlled by the Florida’s State Board of Administration (SBA). The run on the fund was triggered by worries that a percentage of the portfolio contained debt that had defaulted.

          1. sgt_doom

            I had suspected that Dave of Maryland was a phony and a plant.

            Too many of those e-bots around at various econ sites today.

        2. Nathanael

          The original Constitution was fairly defective, actually, and impeachment was the weak point. It was supposed to be fairly easy to invoke — it turned out to be impossible to convict any President, even for an obvious case like Andrew Johnson (who outright refused to enforce the law).

          Another problem was the sloppy, sloppy drafting of the method of appointing Senators — since *both houses* of a state legislature had to agree to appoint any Senator, if a state had a bicameral legislature (every one but Nebraska!) and the houses had split control, the state appointed a total of zero Senators, guaranteed. This is actually why the amendment for popular election of Senators passed.

          Don’t glamourize the badly-drafted parts of the original Constitution.

  3. Richard Kline

    I agree with Stoller completely, and could have written his comment. The Democratic ‘Party’ died in 1982 when they lost the House and sold out the New Deal to cut ‘non-partisan’ (read anti-citizen) deals with Reaganites. And as Stoller points out, this slipslidey way started under Jimmy Carter. Who declared the Near East American territory? Jimmy, that’s who. He as a Navy man also, and liked Big Military Science. Carter’s spent the rest of his life atoning for that four-year posture, but the Party’s never come back. Obama knows exactly what he’s doing, who he’s doing it for, and who he’s doing it to. Feckless bastard goes to Arizona and doesn’t say, ‘this will not stand’ but ‘let’s kiss and make up and forget alllllll about this troubling assassination.’ Right . . . . Don’t get mad, be happy; and quiet. ‘Serious’ people have work to do.

    So what is to be done? Pretty obvious: Grayson and the one-third of genuine Democrats need to leave that Party and start another. Liberal aristocrats so firmly have their hold on the Demos that they won’t be shaken, so get out from under their thumb and walk your principles folks. Seriously, genuine progressives and those of conscience have _less than zero influence_ inside the Democratic Party; they’re completely neutered by a bought and paid for ‘sellership’ cabal who vote for everything that counts of those ‘Republican’ initiatives, wanting only a different frosting on their cake. Do progressives have the gonads to get out of their co-dependency and stand for what they believe? Not this election cycle. But they should; and not tomorrow: today.

    1. Sufferin' Succotash

      Mild quibble here. The Democrats didn’t lose the House in 1982; maybe you mean that they lost the Senate in 1980(then got it back six years later). But there’s no question but that the party’s decline began in the late 70s when Carter began implementing what were in fact Republican policies.

      1. Richard Kline

        so Sufferin’ I don’t doubt that you’re right and it’s a reasonable quibble. I didn’t have time to fact check, and was half sure I had the detail off, now wholly sure. Buy yah got my back so . . . .

    2. ChrisTiburon

      I still remember a speech Carter made that galvanizedd the right.
      paraphrasing from memory here:
      “If there’s one thing that I want you to remember here tonight, it’s that federal judges are appointed for life. They will go on interpreting your rights for the rest of our lives…”

    3. tatere

      “So what is to be done? Pretty obvious: Grayson and the one-third of genuine Democrats need to leave that Party and start another.”

      This is where the energy of the left should be going – not into a futile attempt to primary Obama. The narrative for that is already written and in place. But creating a real liberal party at the Federal level, that’s not in the script.

      Which is why, more important than Grayson (though I agree), would be to get some *sitting members of Congress* to jump ship. Even a handful would be a shock to the stagnant minds in DC. And labor needs to go with them. Stop buying the “but NEXT year we’ll totally do your stuff” line, Trumka. Cut the cord.

      1. Richard Kline

        Cut the cord is right. Labor got absolutely nothing but the back hand of contempt for all the money and effort they put into a Democratic sweep in 2008. I have no hope whatsoever that the top dealership of Big Labor will leave the Party, though: their minds are number than their butts. But labor in the Democratic Party is worse than self-defeating, it’s putting people in office who despise and work against you at the top.

    4. winstongator

      I hope you remember 2000 and the impact that Nader’s campaign had in FL. Think if you really would have been happier with Gore winning instead of Bush. Play out that scenario before you decide on splitting off into a third party.

      1. Richard Kline

        Oh please, you can drop that canard, it’s been a wooden duck that wouldn’t quack for ten years and more. Gore lost plenty of other states he ‘should’ have won. But that’s not really the point. We’ve had one continuous set of macro-policies easily since Bushe pere. Read that again: there has been little significant difference in overall policy regardless of who has held the White House through twenty years. Gore might have been a little better than Obama, he might have been a little worse. He’d have been little different—Nude Democrats, all of ’em—so it doesn’t much matter.

        The rhetorical tone and visuals are significantly different between the Republicrats and the Demoblicans, but the main points of policy are not significantly different. A wholly corporate owned, crypto-fascist, Teapotter Bund is a bit different, but it also a minority with as low an electoral ceiling as its foreheads. An actual ‘left’ Left party, rather than the Center-Right-called-Left-by-the-Right party would make a difference in the debate if it chose to coalesce.

        We’re not talking about the White House, but that is always egregiously over-hyped. We’re talking about a faction that can prevent bad legislation and win back something for letting other legislation go by; a party which can reintroduce facts in to political discourse; a party which gives the _completely unrepresented_ 65% of the population a slate to vote for if they choose and force the media to cover something of substance rather than the fabricated ‘Beltway-NYC spews’ which fills up the 24-hour cycle now. We can always have a Green Party with 3% talking some of the same points, but a Progressive Party pulling 15-20% is another ball of wax. But that requires the progressive third of the Democratic Party to walk out of the flatbackers bargain they’re holding to with the rich-kissing brokers of the Demos. I’m not holding my breath, but they should go.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        You need to read Greg Palast on the scrubbing of black voters. That is THE still not well understood story in that election.

  4. Maju

    But does anyone have any doubt that, call them Democrats, Liberals, Socialdemocrats and even in some cases Greens or Communists, the institutional Left is almost always colluding with the Right in favor of the same Capitalist masters?

    Carter has been pointed out as the first US President appointed directly by the Trilateral Commission (the “club Rockefeller” in other words). And Obama was accused even before being elected of being the puppet of AIPAC and the Zionist Lobby, closely related to these Imperial Oligarchic elites gathered in the Trilateral and other committees.

    If the USSR could be criticized for having a single party, so can the USA. However, it is masterfully camouflaged as two parties – but both serve the same masters, with only minor discourse and policy differences. This is a constant since the origins of bourgeois “democracy” (condemned as “dictatorship” by Marx and Lenin): the two institutional parties are forced to agree in nearly everything, to follow the directives of the oligarchic power-management clubs and sometimes even individuals, which just like the Senate of Rome did (the Senate had no legal power but effectively ruled Rome, which officially was some sort of “democracy” ruled by popular vote).

    What most worries me about all this is that people is every day more aware of the farce and sometimes their comprehensible reaction is “Democracy what for? It is a farce!” I typically reply that freedom of speech is better than censorship and inquisition in order to point out to flaws in the system, denounce corruption and in general sweeten the worse of the twin-party system. But that is all I can think about: it is not so important that we can vote people in, what matters is that we can denounce their corruption and falsehood, hopefully inducing the correction of the worst excesses.

    But even that is not guaranteed and in general the tendency to autocracy is growing, while consciousness may be more widespread but also more fragmented and disorganized.

    I do not know how this will end but I know that today in the USA, EU and most of the world, the reality is one of twin-party systems in which dissidence is silenced mostly by mere aesthetic sock-puppeteering in the political stage.

    Stoller is right in pointing out that the Democrats are not different than Republicans. But how can really people empower themselves? The system does not allow that, in fact it is designed to impede true popular power (democracy) and just exert a farce pretense.

    How are we going to overcome this? I say that by inserting democracy in all aspects of economy and denying the oligarchs the right to property (beyond the basics). Democracy is not just about the parliament or the local council… it is about the local and wider economy and ecology, that has yet to be democratized. When no one can control the economic resorts, they cannot either control the media, society nor political resorts. But it’s an uphill battle and we must beware of betraying bureaucrats, once and again.

    1. Nathanael

      Yeesh, I don’t know where to start, but your grasp of Roman law is VERY wrong.

      Legally the Senate had enormous, nearly total, power over Rome; the “people” were represented by the Tribunes, who had the power of “Veto”.

      During the Republic, this was actually the case. During the Empire, this remained the case *legally*, but the Senate stopped bothering to use its power and the Emperor ended up with all the power.

  5. scm0330

    I stopped reading following the first paragraph — and almost the first sentence! This alternate-universe leftie stuff that permeates the comment boards, and increasingly the blog proper, is a real detriment to otherwise fine reportage.

    1. Rex

      “I stopped reading following the first paragraph — and almost the first sentence!”

      Good. What’s the point of then whining about something you know nothing about?

      1. weinerdog43

        Instead of realizing the big parties no longer represent the people, scm would rather mouth the Beck/Palin/Limbaugh approved version of reality. Keep the people at each others throats while the elites continue the looting.

    2. Francois T

      “alternate-universe leftie”


      Dude! You are so 20th century! It ain’t left v right anymore.

      Every generation or so, a major secular shift takes place that shakes up the existing paradigm. It happens in industry, finance, literature, sports, manufacturing, technology, entertainment, travel, communication, etc.

      I would like to discuss the paradigm shift that is occurring in politics.

      For a long time, American politics has been defined by a Left/Right dynamic. It was Liberals versus Conservatives on a variety of issues. Pro-Life versus Pro-Choice, Tax Cuts vs. More Spending, Pro-War vs Peaceniks, Environmental Protections vs. Economic Growth, Pro-Union vs. Union-Free, Gay Marriage vs. Family Values, School Choice vs. Public Schools, Regulation vs. Free Markets.

      The new dynamic, however, has moved past the old Left Right paradigm. We now live in an era defined by increasing Corporate influence and authority over the individual. These two “interest groups” – I can barely suppress snorting derisively over that phrase – have been on a headlong collision course for decades, which came to a head with the financial collapse and bailouts. Where there is massive concentrations of wealth and influence, there will be abuse of power. The Individual has been supplanted in the political process nearly entirely by corporate money, legislative influence, campaign contributions, even free speech rights.

      This may not be a brilliant insight, but it is surely an overlooked one. It is now an Individual vs. Corporate debate – and the Humans are losing.


      • Many of the regulations that govern energy and banking sector were written by Corporations;

      • The biggest influence on legislative votes is often Corporate Lobbying;

      • Corporate ability to extend copyright far beyond what original protections amounts to a taking of public works for private corporate usage;

      • PAC and campaign finance by Corporations has supplanted individual donations to elections;

      • The individuals’ right to seek redress in court has been under attack for decades, limiting their options.

      • DRM and content protection undercuts the individual’s ability to use purchased content as they see fit;

      • Patent protections are continually weakened. Deep pocketed corporations can usurp inventions almost at will;

      • The Supreme Court has ruled that Corporations have Free Speech rights equivalent to people; (So much for original intent!)

      None of these are Democrat/Republican conflicts, but rather, are corporate vs. individual issues.

      For those of you who are stuck in the old Left/Right debate, you are missing the bigger picture. Consider this about the Bailouts: It was a right-winger who bailed out all of the big banks, Fannie Mae, and AIG in the first place; then his left winger successor continued to pour more money into the fire pit.

      What difference did the Left/Right dynamic make? Almost none whatsoever.

      How about government spending? The past two presidents are regarded as representative of the Left Right paradigm – yet they each spent excessively, sponsored unfunded tax cuts, plowed money into military adventures and ran enormous deficits. Does Left Right really make a difference when it comes to deficits and fiscal responsibility? (Apparently not).

      What does it mean when we can no longer distinguish between the actions of the left and the right? If that dynamic no longer accurately distinguishes what occurs, why are so many of our policy debates framed in Left/Right terms?

      In many ways, American society is increasingly less married to this dynamic: Party Affiliation continues to fall, approval of Congress is at record lows, and voter participation hovers at very low rates.

      There is some pushback already taking place against the concentration of corporate power: Mainstream corporate media has been increasingly replaced with user created content – YouTube and Blogs are increasingly important to news consumers (especially younger users). Independent voters are an increasingly larger share of the US electorate. And I suspect that much of the pushback against the Elizabeth Warren’s concept of a Financial Consumer Protection Agency plays directly into this Corporate vs. Individual fight.

      But the battle lines between the two groups have barely been drawn. I expect this fight will define American politics over the next decade.

      Keynes vs Hayek? Friedman vs Krugman? Those are the wrong intellectual debates. Its you vs. Tony Hayward, BP CEO, You vs. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO. And you are losing . . .


      This short commentary was conceived not to be an exhaustive research, but rather, to stimulate debate. There are many more examples and discussions we can have about this, and I hope readers do so in comments.

      But my bottom line is this: If you see the world in terms of Left & Right, you really aren’t seeing the world at all . . .

      1. Stan

        I agree that the essential problem in our democracy is how expensive it is to run for office and how commercial media is funded. Its what gives corporations so much influence over policy and over what subjects and how the subjects are discussed on tv. If Rachel Maddow of MSNBC constantly spoke about the need for campaign finance reform and read who got money from which lobby and then showed how they voted and pounded similar themes weekly, even if her viewership tripled, you can bet she’d be off the air as advertisers would start pulling ad revenue from MSNBC. Likewise, even if progressives left the DNC and formed a 3rd party there would have to be a continuous stream of citizen donations to get them relevant and keep them in front of the voting public to have any effect on policy or to get elected at all. The media would be falling on top of themselves to discredit this 3rd party. The economic elites have institutional control of the media and democratic system and its going to take a great deal of grass roots work to have any effect. The fact that americans, as a group, are too comfortable being passively misinformed and are very busy with their own lives is quite an obstacle to broad grass roots efforts.

      2. Dibbles

        In response to Francois T at:
        January 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm

        Yes I suggest for those who aren’t familiar with the site to visit Political Compass at

        It represents a three dimensional political world truer to reality. Find out where your beliefs fall. Keeping political debate two dimensional and dualist – us/them good/bad rich/poor capitalism/communism- will always remain adversarial and unsatisfactory. It force-fits a complex population into a simple yes/no equation. With even more disingenuous results.

      3. Doug Terpstra

        Excellent, François, for the rest of us, but I suspect scm0330 was merely peppering the post with aimless scatter-shots on the fly and swiftly retreated to the familiar cognitive barricades of his tribal hood.

      4. Juan

        It is then, Francois, a process of class contradiction; a working class within which, particularly in the u.s., very little left is left vs a [delegitimizing] global rentier class which has little/no consciousness of its ultimate dependence upon that former, value creating, class.

        In 1990 I thought a relatively smooth transition from duopoly to real multi-party system was possible – given the more absolute state capture by finance,
        I no longer do.



      5. Richard Kline

        You are totally mistaken in your assessments of location on the political spectrum Francois T. It was a hard rightist whose team invented the bailout, and a center-rightist who sealed the deal. Obama is so _NOT_ left wing it’s hard to take anything you say seriously if you start from that position. —And that is the problem I have with this ‘post-Left/Right’ kind of argument, Francois, it always seems to be advocated by folks who know zero (0) about anything actually left or progressive but who instead are choking on fabricated media images of the last twenty years of ‘political positions’ and other false balancing.

        If you think you can get viable governance and a livable world at this point without mitigating or overcoming the hard right oligarchy firmly entrenched in the US, I say bluntly that you’re dreaming. The solution to them doesn’t need to be Left, or even ‘left,’ but change won’t come without a defeat of the Right. So fine, spin your hopes for how to achieve that: you aren’t going anywhere until you engage with the existing parameters of the problem. That’s my view.

  6. Maju

    But does anyone have any doubt that, call them Democrats, Liberals, Socialdemocrats and even in some cases Greens or Communists, the institutional Left is almost always colluding with the Right in favor of the same Capitalist masters?

    Carter has been pointed out as the first US President appointed directly by the Trilateral Commission (the “club Rockefeller” in other words). And Obama was accused even before being elected of being the puppet of AIPAC and the Zionist Lobby, closely related to these Imperial Oligarchic elites gathered in the Trilateral and other committees.

    If the USSR could be criticized for having a single party, so can the USA. However, it is masterfully camouflaged as two parties – but both serve the same masters, with only minor discourse and policy differences. This is a constant since the origins of bourgeois “democracy” (condemned as “dictatorship” by Marx and Lenin): the two institutional parties are forced to agree in nearly everything, to follow the directives of the oligarchic power-management clubs and sometimes even individuals, which just like the Senate of Rome did (the Senate had no legal power but effectively ruled Rome, which officially was some sort of “democracy” ruled by popular vote).

    What most worries me about all this is that people is every day more aware of the farce and sometimes their comprehensible reaction is “Democracy what for? It is a farce!” I typically reply that freedom of speech is better than censorship and inquisition in order to point out to flaws in the system, denounce corruption and in general sweeten the worse of the twin-party system. But that is all I can think about: it is not so important that we can vote people in, what matters is that we can denounce their corruption and falsehood, hopefully inducing the correction of the worst excesses.

    But even that is not guaranteed and in general the tendency to autocracy is growing, while consciousness may be more widespread but also more fragmented and disorganized.

    I do not know how this will end but I know that today in the USA, EU and most of the world, the reality is one of twin-party systems in which dissidence is silenced mostly by mere aesthetic sock-puppeteering in the political stage.

    Stoller is right in pointing out that the Democrats are not different than Republicans. But how can really people empower themselves? The system does not allow that, in fact it is designed to impede true popular power (democracy) and just exert a farce pretense.

    How are we going to overcome this? I say that by inserting democracy in all aspects of economy and denying the oligarchs the right to property (beyond the basics). Democracy is not just about the parliament or the local council… it is about the local and wider economy and ecology, that has yet to be democratized. When no one can control the economic resorts, they cannot either control the media (today much less relevant than in the past), society nor political resorts. But it’s an uphill battle and we must beware of betraying bureaucrats, once and again.

  7. DownSouth

    Matt Stoller says Obama violates “every core tenet of what might have been considered the Democratic Party platform, from supporting foreclosures to destroying civil liberties to torturing political dissidents to wrecking unions…”

    Every once in a while a blind hog finds an acorn, and when the Tea Baggers say “Obama is a fascist” they’re right on the money.

    Obama and the other “Democratic elites,” as Stoller calls them, have employed a strategy that very much reminds me of something Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in his essay “The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness”:

    The success of Nazi diplomacy and propaganda in claiming the poor in democratic civilization as their allies against the “plutocrats” in one moment, and in the next seeking to ally the privileged classes in their battle against “communism,” is a nice indication of the part which the civil war in democratic civilization played allowing barbarism to come so near to a triumph over civilization.

    But one has to remember that the Tea Baggers are on the same payroll as Obama and the Democratic elites. The Tea Baggers get so much wrong—-their blatant partisanship, their identifying Obama as a socialist, their not-so-subtle racism, their claim that Obama is not a citizen, their cheap and overwrought histrionics, their calls to violence—-that they completely discredit themselves.

    This creates a significant hurdle for anyone who wants to point out the true nature of the strategies being used by Obama and the Democratic elites. They immediately get painted with the same brush as the Tea Baggers, and the wheat gets thrown out with the chaff.

    I’ve lived in Mexico for a number of years where political kabuki has become a highly refined art form. Conscientious political discourse gets engulfed in a tidal wave of nonsensical babble. This does not happen by accident. The kabuki is designed to entertain and distract the proles, but its true intent is to keep them confused.

    1. Rex

      “Conscientious political discourse gets engulfed in a tidal wave of nonsensical babble. This does not happen by accident. The kabuki is designed to entertain and distract the proles, but its true intent is to keep them confused.”

      That’s pretty much what we have in DC now and reinforced by various media, isn’t it?

      I wonder what would happen if the majority of people woke up and there was a sudden viable 3rd party? Surely the PTB would get really ugly to keep the rackets running.

      Is there any hope that we will ever start fixing any of the big problems?

      1. sgt_doom


        First mistake — there is no media in the USA.

        Also, there is no economy.

        Anyone over the age of 40 who has yet to figure that out is retarded. The definition of intelligence is awareness of one’s own enviroment and surroundings.

    2. Ignim Brites

      “Conscientious political discourse gets engulfed in a tidal wave of nonsensical babble. This does not happen by accident. The kabuki is designed to entertain and distract the proles, but its true intent is to keep them confused.” The attribution of design and intent is misplaced. It is rather that this is the nature of democratic man as Plato thought. The people who thrive in this environment and become elites share enough of the characteristics of democratic man to acquire legitimacy, receive the consent of the governed. The result is a messy and irrational system which by its very nature results in government of actual limited purpose and effectiveness. The upside is that liberty is tends to be preserved. Though this is not necessarily the consequence, again as Plato thought.

    3. Tertium Squid

      “Conscientious political discourse gets engulfed in a tidal wave of nonsensical babble.”

      Let’s see, you employed “tea baggers” one…two…three…four times.

      That hardly elevates the discourse, friend.

      1. DownSouth

        Stoller splits the Democrats into the “Democratic elite” and “the base of the Democratic Party.”

        Now I’ll agree that if we compare the Democratic elite to the Tea Party elite, you couldn’t put a hair’s breadth of difference between them. And what Niebuhr said about the strategy of the Nazi’s, that describes the Tea Party elite just about as accurately as it does the Democratic elite.

        But if we take a look at the base of the Democratic Party and the base of the Tea Party, how do they compare? According to Stoller, there’s a great gulf that exists in the Democratic Party between the elite and the base. Does a similar gulf exist in the Tea Party? Does the base of the Tea Party deserve to be treated with the same respect as the base of the Democratic Party? That seems to be what you’re asserting.

        1. Tertium Squid

          As the closest thing to a genuine third party revolt that our country has, the Tea Party has been near and dear to my heart. And the way it has been co-opted into the Republican power structure pains me greatly.

          I used to think presumptuous and nigh vainglorious the individuals unable to fit themselves somewhere in our two party system, and the shared sacrifice that it requires to accomplish the collective wills of so many people. Anyone that couldn’t do it belonged out on the fringe with the rest of crazies and wackos.

          Well! Boy was I wrong, and the “fringe” is where I belong. The problem is, while it’s getting thick out on the fringes, the crazies and wackos haven’t gone anywhere, and the effect of their getting lumped into such a big tent is a pretty negative one. And the rest are pretty obnoxious, too. Nonetheless, they’re not trapped in the two party dynamic. None of them are saying, “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.”

          At least, I would have hoped they weren’t. As a coopted and sanitized phony-baloney-“movement”, the Tea Partiers deserve just as much abuse as the base of both other parties. How fast they realize that the Republicans want their votes and not their ideas will be telling. Hopefully real fast.

          Beyond that, to be effective, insults have to be original – or, at least, actually a significant statement about the party being insulted. Otherwise it just becomes a code word, even a signal of orthodoxy (feminazis, anyone?). That’s why people snicker when they read Matt Taibbi, while nobody bothers with the dailykos message board echo chamber.

          You are a serious and sincere person. Teabaggers is beneath you.

          (And don’t bother going over my old posts for my indiscretions. I’m sure I wouldn’t win any prizes for seriousness either.)

          1. Nathanael

            Don’t underestimate DailyKos. A lot of people are not yet ready to realize that the current party system is headed for collapse, or that it’s well past time for it to do so, but having followed DailyKos for a long time, it is one of the places where that understanding is percolating to a larger group of people and getting better understood.

            There are purposes for echo chambers, including getting important ideas heard. :-)

          2. Tertium Squid

            You’re probably right – though from what I’ve observed the kossacks still seemed trapped in the “Obama’s not a fighter” paradigm illustrated above.

          3. DownSouth

            “Third party revolt” is not in and of itself a sufficent criteria. The Bolsheviks and the Nazis were dissident parties who gained power, and I wouldn’t characterize either as a positive developent. So I would agree that we need a “third party revolt,” but only if it’s the right party.

            You’re right about the use of the word Tea Bagger. It’s become hackneyed and, like you say, a code word whose use gets one pigeonholed. I want to be as effective an apologist as I can, and the use of the word doesn’t help in that regard.

          4. Tertium Squid

            DownSouth: Thou has said. But there’s a lot of steps to be taken from “wedge movement” to “gas chambers”. (Not that we are magically invulnerable, of course.)

            My insouciance about the spicier rhetoric coming from the Tea Partiers rests in my assumption that they’ll never be taking over anyway. The duopoly is extremely well entrenched, not just in government, but also in voters minds.

            Since reform of the duopoly from the inside is similarly unimaginable, outside influences will be required. An electoral revolt is the sort of shock that could motivate some genuine improvements, even if it is doomed.

            I want our major parties to be attacked from left, right and center. (I’d also like for people to ignore tv commercials. And a pony.)

            I want people to lose faith in the duopoly. And I say it with regret. Entrenched parties can serve a valuable political and social service by moderating the aims and methods of its more extreme partisans.

            But that’s just not where we are now.

  8. Bruce Post

    Yes, yes and yes.

    I have worked for some great American politicians: Hubert Humphrey, John B. Anderson, and Vermont Senators Bob Stafford and Jim Jeffords. Let me pay particular tribute to the values and ethics of my old boss John Anderson, who ran for President in 1980 as an independent.

    JBA, as we called him, refused offers to become a lobbyist. (As you may know, former Members of Congress get special privileges of access on the Hill.) Anderson thought that was wrong. He did have a good year or two on the lecture circuit, but never to the extent some former politicians have had. He felt it unconscionable how politicians would trade the former elected status for wealth and fame. He has continued to fight for change well into his late years.

    I know, Yves, that you like to limit the length of comments on this blog; therefore, I won’t go on — although I could. Let me conclude: I fear for our country. I live in Vermont, where there are plenty of aging hippies. I may be aging but I was never a hippie. Yet, a while back, I heard two refugees from the ’60’s talk about the growth of fascism in America, and I could not, and cannot, agree more. RIP, e pluribus unum! RIP that which Abe Lincoln celebrated at Gettysburg: “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    1. Richard Kline

      Heyyy, I _voted_ for John Anderson; I couldn’t stand neoliberal Democrats even then. If I recall, he drew 10%. So much for those who say third parties can’t form a base. But the duopoly _is_ well entrenched in no small part because the major media is utterly sold to keeping it that way.

      We’re going to get Fascism with a big ‘F’ in this country in the next twenty years on the course we’re holding now; it seems hardly avoidable. We already have fascism with a small ‘f’ now, ‘friendly fascism so-called. And this is all something we have let happen to ourselves, like a 90 lb. gut and an addiction to percodan. Pitiable. . . . No: contemptible, which is exactly the view the rest of the world is sliding toward.

  9. Ina Deaver

    There is no doubt he’s right. I’m just not sure what we’ll manage to do about it. The entire campaign system, the media, the whole thing has to be completely overhauled and wrested away from the corporations and their agenda. Without those pieces, even breaking the rule of the two-party system likely would not achieve any change.

  10. ellen

    Who benefits? Follow the money. These have become my clues for figuring out what’s happening in “government”. Seen through the lens of public service so much of the activity makes no sense at all, but as a crime scene the goals are revealed.

    1. sgt_doom

      Exactly so — any activity of voluntarism in political activism is a complete waste — something I wasted far too much time earlier in life.

      Forensic economics — that and primarily that is the way to understand the devious and diabolical ways.

      There are still too many who have yet to figure out Carter’s culpability (and yes he has done good deeds since he’s become the outsider); his beginning of the dismantling of the US economy by beginning the deregulation movement, quickly picked up by Reagan and the following administrations.

      Carter’s directive to destabilize the secular government of Afghanistan, leading to the effed-up situation today.

      Jimmy Carter, once David Rockefeller’s lackey.

      It pays to keep up on the membership of that Trilateral Commission — and to realize that the Rockefeller family is worth at least three times as much as Gates and Buffet.

      And that’s why they will never appear on that Forbes list at the very top.

  11. dearieme

    However vile their principal motive, perhaps the Confederates were right on constitutional matters.

    Lord Acton, Letter (4 November 1866) to Robert E. Lee:

    “Without presuming to decide the purely legal question, on which it seems evident to me from Madison’s and Hamilton’s papers that the Fathers of the Constitution were not agreed, I saw in State Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy. The institutions of your Republic have not exercised on the old world the salutary and liberating influence which ought to have belonged to them, by reason of those defects and abuses of principle which the Confederate Constitution was expressly and wisely calculated to remedy. I believed that the example of that great Reform would have blessed all the races of mankind by establishing true freedom purged of the native dangers and disorders of Republics. Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.”

    1. Dave of Maryland

      But it was the States, themselves, that gave away their rights in 1804 when they ratified the 12th Amendment, enabling the direct election of President & Vice-President. Yes, South Carolina (instigator of the Civil War), you, too. You were the 11th of 14 states to ratify the 12th. Delaware, Massachusetts and Connecticut explicitly rejected it.

      When 14 States forced all subsequent States to give up their right to elect the President, the States in fact lost all their other rights. The 17th Amendment (direct election of Senators, 1913) merely confirmed the loss.

      If the 12th & 17th Amendments were repealed, I’m not certain the result would work. Fifty states is a lot more than 13 or 14. Finding a candidate who could please 26 legislatures does not sound easy.

      The 12th Amendment was ratified, so I hear, in 189 days. And there wasn’t even a telegraph to speed things along.

      Personally I don’t think anything will change for the better, but repealing 2 misguided Amendments sounds a lot easier than any of the other proposals.

    2. Nathanael

      The Confederates were basically totally dishonest about states’ rights.

      They had no use for states’ rights when the northern states demanded the right to be free states — they demanded that states subjugate their sovereignty to the federal government, requiring that it be legal to drag slaves around in chains nationwide.

      They had no use for individual rights at *all*, and violently suppressed any grassroots democracy (look at Jones County Mississippi or Winston County Alabama).

  12. dcb

    what is stated here has been self evident for a long time. because Obama is a “democrat” he gets a pass when doing republican things. hello, Obama is very right wing, facist. since the republicans are worse, then he seems less evil. trust me this is planned theater, like 1984.

  13. Sherparick

    I would actually go back to the 1968 and 1972 elections and a man named Fred Dutton. Dutton, an advisor to George McGovern, wrote off the white working class as racist, nationalist, and ultimately doomed in the what was evisioned to be the coming “post-industrial” economy. It envisioned replacing the New Deal coalition with a coalition of minorities, environmentalists, feminists, left intellecutals, and “young people.” This coalition got creamed the Vietnam elections of 1968 and 1972. The evolution of the careerism and self-seeking that followed is symbolized by the fact that Dutton became a lobbyist for corporations and Saudi Arabia and founded one of Washington’s biggest lobbying firms.

    I disagree with Stoller, and with many people on this Blog, that the President somehow “deceived” the Democratic electorate in 2007-2008. As Paul Krugman was noting at the time, President Obama was the most conservative and neo-liberal on economic and social welfare issues of the 3 major Democratic candidates. The beatings that Clinton administered to Obama in the late primaries in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania showed the skepticism and lack of appeal he had among white working class voters. Part of this was race, but part of it was Obama’s identification with the Rubin wing of the party. It should always be remember that Obama was an adjuuct professor at the University of Chicago Law School and imbided deeply in the fresh-water economics for which that school is famous. Afer all, two his most significant advisors both before and since the election have been Alan Goolsbee and Cass Sunstein. Hence, I have never quite got the sense of “betrayal” that Stoller and some on this and other blogs exhibit when talking about the President (or the equally “what planet are they on” comments by CEOs and CNBC types that this administration was “anti-business.”)

    The U.S. is vast, continental political entity and its political parties by necessity always been coalitions of disparate groups. Hence, I think the idea of progressive political change outside the context of the Democratic Party (before 1932, one could have argued that either party could have become the progressive vehicle, but the evolution of the parties since that time means that the Republicans will have become a coalition of the non-finance business community and right-wing volk/theocratic movement. And even the business community will dance to the right wing tune when it comes to a question of political survival as Arizona’s current government demonstrates.

    I must admit that I have always voted and supported candidates on least worst alternative theory. The one time I didn’t, Dubya became President.

    1. Ignim Brites

      Very interesting historical point. The role of Phil Burton in CA, Nancy Pelosi’s predecessor should not be ignored. Although the CA delegation at the 68 Demo convention ultimately went for Gene McCarthy under the influence of the magnificent Jess Unruh, by the time Burton had his “you are in your mother’s arms” moment, San Francisco was well on it path to being a bastion of the New Class.

      1. ChrisTiburon

        “The New Class”

        S.F. politics are the absolute manifestation of
        that. The quiet and absolute string pulling of the
        rentier and trust fund billionaires controlling
        city politics versus the
        screaming call for the importance to society of transgendered minority political candidates and other
        sideshows that keep real economic and social issues
        from being discussed in a meaningful way.

          1. gepay

            Thinking of San Francisco politics, I can remember a time when there a was a chance for a different kind of politician to take over. Think of the difference between George Moscone and Harvey Milk – Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi. Remember how that change happened. Dan White, a former policeman and if you look into his history, a good candidate for being a product of the MK Ultra program of creating mind controlled lone nut assassin like Sirhan Sirhan. “DAN WHITE’S LAST CONFESSION” by Mike Weiss.
            September 18, 1998 San Jose Mercury News.
            “I really lost it that day,” White said. “You can say that again,” Falzon answered. “No. I really lost it. I was on a ‘MISSION’. I wanted four of them.” “Four?” Falzon said.
            “Carol Ruth Silver—she was the biggest snake of the bunch. And Willie Brown,” White continued. “He was masterminding the whole thing.”
            In 1998, Falzon (a SanFrancisco homicide detective and friend of Dan White) told Weiss to expose the shocking truth that he had kept secret for thirteen years.

            By eliminating individuals who could be a nexus for oganizing, the elites have stopped an alternative of the the Dems and the Repubs from becoming operational. What do you think the well known assassinations in the 60’s of JFK, RFK, and MLK were about?

            This program also had a larger, more diffuse program of which another event in the late 70’s was part of – the Jonestown Tragedy.
            “If Jonestown did one thing, it ended a lot of radical movements, especially in San Francisco” Fielding McGeehee married to a sister of two women who died at Jonestown.
            Or what John Judge said, “Any alternative to the current system was seen as futile, if not deadly. Protest only led to police riots and political assassination. Alternative life styles led to drugs, “creepy crawly” communes and violent murders. And religious experiments led to cults and suicide. Social utopias were dreams that turned into nightmares.”

            Why does this seem just the ravings of a conspiracy theorist? Why are these kinds of actions to be taken by the elites to covertly manipulate ‘us’ so unthinkable when there are unmanned drones firing Hellfire missiles into Pakistani houses weekly killing civilians 10 to 1? to alleged terroists. When people all over the world were just whisked off the streets and taken places to be tortured sometimes because they had a name similar to someone thought to be a terrorist. When an American citizen (Lindaur) is arrested and told that the charges can’t be told to her for reasons of national security. Then she is taken to a mental institution and given drugs against her will. I could go on and write a book to expand on this.
            I mean the present economic system is such a giant Ponzi scheme all right out in the open that it’s only occasionally mentioned. Why was Benanke picked to succeed Greenspan? Was it a coincidence that he had studied the ‘Great Depression”? Was it a coincidence that the CEO of Goldman Sachs moves over the US Treasury in time to rescue his buddies?

          2. AR

            In reply to gepay:

            Yup. The Transition Town movement is the only one that offers an answer to how we build the communities of the future, for coping with the coming collapse, in all senses: finance; energy; climate. A Transition group just started in my area, and there’s this one guy in the group that I wonder about…..

            I don’t think the Transition movement can be co-opted, but I’m sure that fusion centers will be sending their infiltrators to keep tabs and make lists.

    2. Ming

      You have made a signifcant error…. Rubin was Clinton’s trasury secretary, the brilliant deregulator who helped enable his wallstreet followers to hurl the US into the financial abyss. Furthermore, prior to Obama’s victory, he had a shadow cabinet of outsiders; once he was elected he did a brilliant bait and switch and restored all of the ‘old guards’ and cronies of the old guard to power. A president can only be as good as the staff who works for him; since Obama restored all of the old cronies we got that the same pro-finance industry bullshit that got this country into this mess. ‘

      ‘Hope and Change’ were Obama’s slogans, and he really meant it; but only as a slogan.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you reread what Stoller wrote. Your comment is projection. His post is entirely about what Obama and the current Dem leadership is doing. There is not a single statement about his pre-election positioning.

      However, having said that, what was “Change you can believe in” supposed to mean, exactly? It was a clear promise that Things Would Be Different. So it is fair to say (which Stoller does not, BTW he’s been an Obama critic back to 2005) that the Obama center/right position was sold as something much more, ahem, inclusive. To say he wasn’t trying to appeal to the traditional more left Dem base is jus wrong. Why has he gone to such lengths to neuter leftist critics (Google Jane Hamsher on “veal pen”, it’s deliberate and well orchestrated) and gotten pissy with the one’s he can’t silence (usually through proxies, see the Gibbs “professional left” out burst)

    4. Nathanael

      Secretary of State Clinton was seriously no better than Obama on economic issues — not better at all. Talk about your phony choice between two alternatives that are really identical.

      Edwards at least talked a good game, though perhaps he was a phony.

      Of course, the media made fun of Kucinich, Dodd, and Gravel. Perhaps because all three of them actually challenged the system, in entirely different ways (Dodd and Gravel opposing the “national security” fascism, Kucinich opposing that AND calling for economic change).

  14. Jessica

    If one accepts that the two parties serve the same interests, then one must also explain the continuing hold of the illusion that they are different.
    I suggest that they actually are different, just not in the way portrayed.
    The Democrats have become the party of technocracy, rationality, and discipline for the sake of the interests of the elite as a whole.
    The Republicans have become the party of those fragments of the elite that wish to violate elite discipline for the sake of their own interests, even when those interests run counter to those of the elite as a whole. They are particularly strongly aligned with elite elements connected with low technology and old technology (for example, oil and coal).
    I also suspect that media matters. If, as McLuhan would have it, radio heated things up (everyone pulled into action listening to FDR or Churchill or Stalin or Hitler) and TV cooled them down by letting everyone see that the emperor had no clothes, perhaps many-channeled cable/satellite TV, cell phones, and the Internet primarily have the effect of fragmenting society. This weakens the technocracy and strengthens those whose interests are served by chaos and confusion (Republican wing of the elite). It also might explain how things have gotten this bad without a coherent response to correct it.

    1. Ignim Brites

      “The Democrats have become the party of technocracy, rationality, and discipline for the sake of the interests of the elite as a whole.” If one modifies rationality with bureaucratic in the preceding this is a very valid observation.

    2. Antisemite

      You means like the war on terror was started by the old republican oil and gun interest and somehow they can use anthrax delivered to the door of any american citizen to force the newer media and banking interest to stay silence ?

      the nonjews vs the jews shall we say ?

  15. Timothy Gawne


    Of all the things that make me despair of this country, the fact that so many of my otherwise intelligent friends insist that Obama is a liberal – they get angry when I present them with evidence to the contrary!

    Unless this total American brain-lock can be undone nothing else will matter. It is our civic duty to bash Obama as a corporate shill.

  16. Mondo

    Here are two links that are relevant to this post, I think, however in very different ways – posted here since not many people will have read them:,0,2781450.story

    This points to a very troubling aspect of shielding the power class from any disturbances, with total disregard for everybody else. One can only hope that the Supreme Court steps back from offering prosecutors blanket immunity from any misconduct.

    A more hopeful sign is a post in a most unlikely place, the Manufacturing Business Technology magazine (which I subscribe to out of obviously non-political interest):

    If and when these posts become more visible in such places where they don’t just reach the usual, liberal or left-leaning suspects, there is hope for real change at some point. Not everybody understands that the issue raised by Matt Stoller isn’t about left or right, and the more we are seeing such posts in such unusual places the better, to maybe even have a broader discussion that reaches a national level of attention.

    1. Kristina

      Just wanted to point out that while I agree with you, pointing to prosecutor misconduct as an example is a bit like comparing apples and oranges.

      The reason why the courts provide immunity for judges and prosecutors is that lawyers are self-regulating (as are accountants). In the instance above, what should happen is that the bar association in that state investigates the matter, and if it finds the prosecutor guilty of misconduct, the prosecutor’s law license is yanked (i.e., he will be disbarred). The bar association also has the power to order the prosecutor to make restitution (pay money) to the victim.

      Furthermore, because the prosecutor is a state actor, the victim has a civil rights claim under 42 USC 1983.

      My point is that prosecutor immunity isn’t so much about protecting the power structure as it is that the legal system has alternative remedies available to such victims.

      Whether those remedies are effective, of course, is a matter of opinion…

      1. Mondo


        Thank you for pointing this out, not being a lawyer I wasn’t aware of these protections. As you say, if they actually are worth anything, is another story.

        The follow-up question is if the Supreme Court is about to issue a ruling that is a no-brainer because Thompson should really be seeking remedies per the avenues you indicate. If not, I guess I will have to stick with my view…

      2. sleepy

        Yes, but in a 1983 action against a prosecutor, it’s extremely difficult to get around the qualified immunity provisions.

        It can be done, but it’s an extremely high bar, and not much of a threat litigation-wise.

        I do like the idea of state bars taking a more proactive role in policing prosecutors.

  17. ChrisTiburon

    Re Stoller:

    A simple and clear concept beautifully spoken in Ferguson’s
    MIT lecture is that there is a duopoly between the two parties: while they have
    differences in their social agenda, they agree in not
    touching the financial aristocracy that owns them.
    Change your registration to “decline to state”.
    Party affiliation is like intellectual slavery.
    I can’t believe how many Useful Idiots® there still
    are driving around with Obama bumper stickers.

    1. Dave of Maryland

      If you decline to state a party, then in many locales you are unable to vote in the primaries. Which, for many local & state offices, IS the election.

      I was so frustrated by local disenfranchisement – where votes actually count – that at the primary last year I changed parties on the spot. I used to be a Democrat. No point in being a member of the party that’s permanently out of power.

      The other day I realized that I will no longer be able to vote in the Democratic Presidential Primary. But then I remembered that, regardless of the year, regardless of the state, regardless of the date of the primary, the Democratic Presidential Nomination has always been defacto over by “Primary Day”. There has never been an exception.

      So Register Local! Vote Local!

      1. ChrisTiburon

        You are right. I’m parochial.
        In California we now have open primaries except in
        presidential races. I still think “Decline to state”
        is the right choice for all but Presidential races.
        Make the (local) candidates earn your vote, not count on it as some preordained gift.
        ” “if this was a traditional Republican primary, my only potential voters would be Republicans and they would be my target for messaging,”Assemblyman Roger Niello, a [Carmichael- Republican], said in an interview. “With an open primary format, we will be speaking to all voters – Republicans, decline-to-states and Democrats. I think it works well with me because I’ve always had a lot of support from decline-to-state voters in all my elections.”

      2. Nathanael

        You want to vote for President, move to Iowa or New Hampshire. They’re the only states which actually get to vote in elections for President. :-P What an insane, abusive, easily manipulated system.

  18. Jim Haygood

    ‘Obama … fights like hell for what he wants. He whipped incredibly aggressively for TARP, he has passed emergency war funding (breaking a campaign promise) several times.’ — Matt Stoller

    Peace Laureate O’Bomber stated quite plainly during his campaign, in August 2008, that he planned to increase troop deployments to Afghanistan and intensify the hunt for militants. As Will Grigg observed:

    Shorn of the sophistries that provide it with a moral disguise, pared down to its essentials, political government is the systematic use of exactly the same kind of criminal violence employed by Loughner, only on a much grander scale. This was illustrated the day before Loughner’s murderous rampage, when agents of the government ruling us used a remote-controlled drone operated from the safety of an office building in Nevada to murder six people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region.

    Americans were not admonished to observe a moment of chastened silence in memory of the victims of that exercise in criminal violence. This is, in part, because observances of that kind would quickly become tedious: Since 2008, Pakistan — a country with which the government ruling us is not formally at war — has endured at least 250 drone attacks, in which roughly 1,400 people have been killed.

    According to the most conservative estimate of “collateral damage,” only a tithe of those slaughtered through drone strikes are “militants.”

    Hundreds of civilians have likewise been massacred in the ongoing “surge” in Afghanistan, many of them in nighttime raids by “Special Operations Forces” — that is, death squads — whose behavior is not easily distinguishable from that of Jared Loughner. At least a hundred thousand civilians have been annihilated in the continuing war in Iraq, which was inaugurated for reasons just as delusional as anything that percolated in Loughner’s distressed mind.

    As we commence the eleventh year of the Bush-Obama administration next week, it is well to remember that only one party governs in Washington D.C.: the WAR PARTY.

  19. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

    Nothing new here… same old ground… What is wrong without any prescription for how we can change it, conducting one into the “negativity trap” of hopelessness and despair – PARALYSIS.

    Labeling Obama a fascist is about as useful as labeling him a socialist. For he is neither, but rather a chameleon, turning whatever color is necessary to preserve and maintain the domination of the majority by the minority for the minority. And it’s been that way ever since Madison penned Federalist #10.

    QUIT AMERICA – it’s that simple.

    Go through the motions of everyday life to survive as best you can, teach and lead by example, give a little bit more and take a little bit less. Avoid debt and learn to live with less by choice, voluntarily turning your back on unnecessary material consumption. THINK before you buy! We can starve this beast! Burrow into the belly of the beast and cut the best deal you can, but on your terms. There is no shame in quitting. The shame comes from “playing” in the mistaken belief that you can change the institutional rot via the acquisition of power. That things will be different when I have “power”, knowing fully well that the game is structured to reward those who play – not those who rebel or swim against the current or those who simply walk away – QUIT.

    The ruling elite is not opposed to change so much as they are interested in controlling its scope and pace. We must alter the playing field of the latter by defining PROGRESS on our terms. So long as we accept their vision/definition of PROGRESS their outcome is a foregone conclusion. Why are we so surprised?

    Quit believing that more “economic growth” is the solution to our problems as it only masks the issues of equity and fairness, if not outright redistribution. Work and structure your life around a sociopolitical system that is EQUITABLE, SUSTAINABLE, and PROFITABLE. The definition of all three – ESP – is subject to debate and remains open. But participate in its creation! Be wary of AUSTERITY predicated on artificially-induced scarcities. “Cheap oil” is NOT “peak oil”. And tree hugging differs from conservation. I’m no Luddite! If the lights go out it won’t be because electricity has been uninvented! Nor am I an anarchist – that we can all get along if the state just withers away to be replaced by the forward-looking, benign transnational corporation in a neofeudal world where the technopeasantry labors happily on the corporate manor. Dream on…

    The politics of ESP will not attain critical mass until enough of us first QUIT AMERICA, forging a viable alternative from within the belly of the beast on which a sociopolitical movement can arise. For it cannot spring ex nihilo. WE have to start with the cards we are dealt. But we too can “starve the beast” by voluntarily refusing to participate in its bestiality, depriving it a la John Galt of the talent and knowledge it needs to function, but not in the way contemplated by Ayn Rand or her adherents. We are the “producers” and they are the “looters” – not the other way around. The legitimacy of their beast is predicated on material consumption, delivering the goods. And increasingly, it cannot deliver the goods for more than a small minority. Consciously choosing not to be part of the latter – this minority – is the first step. Unfortunately, many of us will never have the opportunity to do so voluntarily, making it imperative that ESP not come at the expense of those already excluded. Promising more austerity to those already marginalized will not work. Be wary of any AUSTERITY that masks itself in the garb of environmentalism. Turning the rest of the planet into a nature preserve for the wealthy is not a solution, however, environmentally appealing it may first appear. We still need jobs and gainful employment as underemployment and/or technological unemployment due to automation/computerization render the former increasingly problematical. And not just in this country.

    QUIT AMERICA as best you can. Define what PROGRESS is on your own terms. Then translate it into everyday life, practicing what you preach. Little by little, drop by drop, day by day, such behavior will become the river of PROGRESS on which ESP can be built. Yes, it will take time… but a journey of thousand li begins with the first step. Take it! You just might find that “quitting” works…

      1. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio


        Normally I would not respond to such a comment. But in this case let me try without getting to specific and personal because it’s really none of your business.

        But doesn’t the very thrust of my comment suggest that I haven’t drunk from the traditional package of KOOLAID poured into most Americans from birth – that MORE is better. As such I’ve been a refugee in my native born country for most of my adult life and have no regrets.

        I drive a 1997 F150 Pickup that has only 45,000 miles on it because I choose to live much closer to work than I have to, refusing to participate in the “white flight” and suburbanization that is predicated on “cheap oil.” Thus my carbon footprint is smalller than most. I plant a vegetable garden [30′ x 25′] because I choose to – not because I have to. My neighbors and I eat very well during the summer months – lettuce, spinach, green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, and yellow peppers. Even manage to freeze beans and tomatoes for the winter months. And I have learned much from this garden about nature and myself, the uniqueness of each year from one to the next, but always within the broader regular patterns that characterize the seasons. And with a bit of manure and shredded leaves, I don’t have to resort to synthetic, chemical fertilizer to replenish the soil. It only requires time and effort… to make it both sustainable and profitable/rewarding. I find the whole process very therapeutic.

        Likewise, I have limited myself to consuming what I deem necessary, often buying used woolens and military surplus. The winters in Ohio can be very COLD. But I relish the solitude of a cold winter morning, the crunch of the snow… Wool is the best fabric I’ve found to combat it. Good quality used sweaters can now be had on e-bay for very reasonable prices. Even learned how to wash them and “oil” them with lanolin [sheep oil] to keep the properties of the wool intact.

        I am a fiscal conservative as far as money goes and believe in frugality/saving as well as paying for Social Security, Medicare, public education, etc with higher taxes if necessary. There is no free lunch. My family and friends say that I’m CHEAP. But they always come to the “bank” when in need and I usually oblige. I have found a niche that pays well by most standards, but affords an introvert like me the means with which to fly below the radar. Kept my life as simple as possible – no wife, no children, no mortgage, no debt, and no regrets. I want for nothing and will likely burn in hell for what I do have. I realize that my life will not for work you or anyone else. Each of us has to come to grips with the other America in our own way. And make no mistake about it, I’m not making poverty into a virtue, something it isn’t. Those who do so have usually never experienced it first hand. I have never been hungry but have known what it is to do without. I am the son of a very skilled carpenter who worked his way through university as an undergraduate polishing motorcycle parts 40 hours a week. No silver spoon here… just some well grounded working class kid who has never lost sight of his roots and where his loyalties reside.

        As for picking my political battles, how about defending a female colleague who was accused of sexual misconduct when I was told that it behooved me not to intervene. I did anyways and she was exonerated with the accusation found to be without merit, but her reputation was so badly sullied in the process that she sought employment elsewhere. I moved on as well. Some would say I was pushed… No regrets.

        All I’m saying is that THINK before you marry, have children, acquire a mortgage, etc. in pursuit of the American Dream. Then you won’t have to use any of them as an excuse for your own lack of testicular fortitude when put to the test. Or at least do it in the knowledge that with each activity comes responsibility, but that in itself is still not an excuse. Peope have come before us with the same responsibilities and they still managed to bring about meaningful change that improved their and our lives. Why can’t we?

        Just go in with your eyes wide open and don’t accept the party line at face value. That in itself will put you on the road to quitting America and helping to build a society that is more equitable, sustainable, and rewarding. Think for yourself. That is the birthright of every human being, if not the very essence of what it means to be free.

        1. ChrisTiburon

          Thank you. We have a lot in common. Examples are easier to follow than philosophies. Every good citizen should
          have a garden that they eat and share and teach
          others from.

        2. JTFaraday

          “Peope have come before us with the same responsibilities and they still managed to bring about meaningful change that improved their and our lives. Why can’t we?”

          Because you just counseled them to “quit America” rather than seek change through (gasp) “seeking power.”

          No reform movement in the history of the planet got anywhere without seeking some form of power. The point is to alter the nature of power not to repudiate it entirely, for you cannot.

    1. Toby

      Well said Mickey!

      If ever democracy needed to rear its head properly and fully it is now. And yet in doing so it must somehow overcome prejudice and fear, and Mickey’s call demands that. We must become truly arrogant, learn for ourselves, self-educate, and be the change we want to see in the world.

      @Chris Tiburon: Why? Why wait for ‘leaders’ to follow when you should be dong what you think is right because YOU think it is right! If not you, then who?

  20. ted raicer

    I’m rather tired of the lazy habit of lumping in the Clintons and Carter with Obama. While neither Carter or the Clintons were ideal, they were recognizable Democrats in the tradition leading back to FDR. And I don’t think it can be argued that if Al Gore had not been robbed of office in 2000, we would be looking at the same world we do today. Bill raised taxes on the top 2%, and as Krugman noted in 2008, Hillary campaigned to Obama’s left. Obama represents more than the culimination of trends that have existed in the Democratic Party for decades; his election was not just a new chapter in a continuing story, it was a turning point.

    With that important exception, I agree with what Mr. Stoller wrote.

    1. Externality

      Under Clinton, we got:

      1. NAFTA, which he pushed through the Congress. As predicted, NAFTA sent hundreds of thousands of US manufacturing jobs to Mexico (and ultimately China). NAFTA also destroyed the Mexican farm economy, resulting in mass immigration to the US by displaced farmers. Other provisions of NAFTA damaged the environment and allowed companies to use transnational forums to evade national, state, and local laws and legal processes.

      2. Repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act when he signed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act in 1999. According to President Obama, the bill helped cause the 2008 crash.

      3. A war with Serbia, which both Congress and the UN Security Council refused to authorize. Clinton ignored them both, and bombed Serbian cities anyway. We still have a massive military presence in Kosovo, which was part of Serbia.

      4. Intervention in the war in Bosnia. During the 1992 presidential campaign, he criticized Bush the Elder for wanting to intervene. Bosnia remains a US- and UN- protectorate.

      5. “Welfare Reform” legislation that cut holes in the FDR and LBJ-era social safety net.

      6. Sanctions on and bombing raids against Iraq that killed half a million Iraqi children. His secretary of state, Madeline Albright, publicly insisted that the deaths of Iraqi children were “worth it.”

      7. Intervening in the 1994 Mexican Financial Crisis so as to rescue Citibank and Goldman Sachs, both of which were massively exposed to increasingly worthless Mexican bonds.

      8. A bailout of a major hedge fund called Long Term Capital Management.

      9. A commission that recalculated the CPI to underestimate inflation, and decrease the amount the government will have to pay for inflation-indexed programs such as Social Security.

      Many of Clinton’s actions were merely trial runs for the Bush and Obama administrations. Just as Clinton ignored the UN and Congress to attack Serbia using NATO, Bush ignored the UN and NATO to attack Iraq using the “Coalition of the Willing.” Just as Clinton bailed out Citibank and Goldman Sachs, Bush and Obama have bailed out the entire financial system.

      1. Nathanael

        Gore was another matter. Gore recognized that humanity is facing the critical issue of climate change, and that it had to be dealt with, whether or not elites wanted to deal with it.

        And Gore lost because Clinton was such a quisling, such a toady of the upper class. People voted against Gore *because of that list of evil Clinton policies*, although Gore would most certainly have been better.

    2. Tao Jonesing

      Clinton was worse. Without Clinton there could be no Obama. Clinton gave us the DLC as the power broker in the Democratic party, AND he oversaw the repeal of Glass-Steagall AND he let his bully boys prevent the regulation of derivatives.

      Carter may not not have been as been as Obama, but that’s only if you prize honesty and integrity over effectiveness. Section 2A of the Federal Reserve Act, which codified a 1975 joint resolution, was passed in 1978 under Carter’s watch. It was this section and its focus on monetary aggregates that gave Paul Volcker and the Fed the power to raise the fed funds rate to astronomical levels, which really only succeeded in destroying U.S. manufacturing.

  21. Tao Jonesing

    Thanks for highlighting the comment by making it its own post.

    In researching the various trends that led up to the financial crisis, I had noticed that some major bank deregulation had been pushed by the Carter administration and passed into law, so it was nice to get further examples of what happened under Carter’s watch. Once you assign a role for Carter in the neoliberal revolution, you have to include Nixon, who closed the gold window at the urging of Chicagoists. I was loathe to paint Carter with the neoliberal brush without more examples, but now I have them.

    Regarding Obama, it is nice to have a Dem insider confirm my intuition about the man and how he gets things done (or not).

    1. Nathanael

      Here’s the thing: *Carter had an excuse*.

      The standard policies were not working during Carter’s administration, thanks to the oil shocks. The neoliberal program, as we now know it, had not yet been *tried*.

      By the time of Clinton, we most certainly knew better.

  22. Ted Raicer

    >The Democrats have become the party of technocracy, rationality, and discipline for the sake of the interests of the elite as a whole.

    >The Republicans have become the party of those fragments of the elite that wish to violate elite discipline for the sake of their own interests, even when those interests run counter to those of the elite as a whole. They are particularly strongly aligned with elite elements connected with low technology and old technology (for example, oil and coal).

    Good point, but if I might suggest another way of saying it:

    The Democrats have become the party of Trickle Down; the GOP has become the party of Dog Eat Dog.

    1. Jessica

      Yes. The Democrats have a program for the elite and the Republicans no longer even have the discipline of the dog pack.
      The fact that one of the two main factions of the elite is not even trying to sustain the rule of the elite as a whole must point to some deep, underlying factor.

  23. Lavrentij Lemko

    The libertarian conservatives are the revolutionaries of today. The pwogs are forced to fight for a dwindling margin of crumbs. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em? I don’t think so. The doors are closed. We working stiffs (however indebted for our worthless “new Ivy” educations in our desperate gambit to join the oligarchy) have no choice but to be collateral damage.

  24. Paul Tioxon

    This is good to see. An adequate description of what is going on today without the tiresome references to the best insights of the politics of 1949. Past is prologue my fellow NC readers and writers. The insights from a historical perspective are important, but looking at precisely what is happening now is the order of the day. The US is a complex social system and is part of a larger and even more more complex global order. It is not impossible to describe and analyze but it does take some work. We live in the middle of a global economic system that has transcended the political system of nation states. That is why there is not much of a difference between the R and D. Neither are proposing going from what is labeled capitalism to socialism or much of anything else substantially different from the global economic system that we presently have. Both parties substantially support the overall superstructure of the status quo. However, that is not the point of conflict or contention for Obama, the Ds or many of the people who run America. As Stoller points out, “By contrast, the Republicans are unified in their desire for a more brutal and more plutocratic though otherwise unchanged institutional arrangement.”

    Yes we are only getting crumbs, but as you can see, the crumbs from the wealth making machine of America has been fantastic to say the least. Food, clothing, shelter, health and education for just about anyone mentally healthy enough to consume. And now and again, the New Deal and The Great Society, social democracy at it’s finest. The flip side of course, Viet Nam, Kent and Jackson State and El Salvador death squads. People, you need to pick a side. There is no great political change coming next year or next decade. This is it, with some incremental changes as reforms, beaten out of the political process from trench warfare at the ballot box. The Republicans will do everything in their power to destroy every social program from the government at the Federal, State and local level, leaving only the power of money from the corporate world to rule over our every moment of existence. Credit scores, not a big deal for the high and mighty Wall St types that are usually hereon NC , but, this is the corporate intrusion into my life and the lives of most people, telling them what class they can operate within an increasingly stratified social order, based on income and educational status. Health care, being able to grow older and fully function for work until you are 70 is becoming an economic necessity. The business world, the military and the government at all levels needs well educated and healthy people to run our social order. Wealth does not fall from the sky. This is paid for with taxes. And a slumlord management will not survive a competitive social environment with China, India and Russia forming along with Europe, a new United States, that extends from the rock of Gibraltar to Vladivostok. A new Atlantic/Pacific transcontinental nation state with almost a billion people will be a political reality within the lifetime of most of us on this site.

    The USA can be a brutal police state to contain the populace that once knew a good measure of freedom from fear and freedom to dream and succeed in creating a progressively better life for themselves and their loved one. Or it will be settle into a world will it must share global resources with a minimum of violent conflict with others whose aspirations have reached our level of living standards. In order to do that, more social democracy, more government compensation for the inequities of the global private economic system will be taxed and put into place as as a safety valve, in order to keep the greater superstructure of endless accumulation of capital going a little bit longer.

    You need to take a side. Expand medicare and medicaid throughout society, for those not covered by private health insurances or expand the TSA brand of security over a greater and greater footprint of our daily lives. Republican fear of terrorists, Venezuelan madman, socialist gun confiscators, limited/slumlord government and violence on a daily basis from insurgent disaffected former middle class aspirants or Democratic strategic pragmatism, creating a safety valve against harsh economic downturns, and other global dislocations of the citizenry via a number of government reforms and programs that will create a minimum of prosperity. The opportunity for success is not enough, as a fragile social system can be brought down by stuxnet or wiki radicals. Nearly everyone, and everyone than can and should be, will be brought into a level of prosperity that will keep them from agitating for radical change or violent disruptions. We don’t need million dollar homes, 2nd vacation homes, and 3 cars and a boat in the driveway to live a good life. But we certainly need more than the money we are expending is returning to us.

    There has been some notice of Brazil and one of its signature social programs, the largest of its kind in the world. Bolsa Familia, pays to have parents, many female headed households as well, to raise healthy and educated children. We have 2 million in prisons, with guards, and the ancillary prison industrial complex. We can pay on the front end and have a better measure of the sweetness of life or pay on the back end and watch CSI, cop shows and the occasion disaster relief special inside well guarded, remote islands of privilege amidst the libertarian/anarchy.

    Pick a side. The sides are forming whether you like it or not, it was not your choice. But picking a side is. Pick a side.

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      Re: Pick a side.

      Easier to move to New Zealand now and get out of the way.

      The “sides” will get killed. The smart people watch the dumbasses kill each other. History shows there’s usually a safe place to watch from IF you are willing to move and leave your family (assuming they can’t come with ya).

      1. Paul Tioxon

        Yea, remote areas like the scenic foothills of the Himalayas, on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, so high up and so remote, nobody can reach you. Julian Assange is from neighboring Australia, I guess New Zealand is special. You wouldn’t be sourcing Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus and the old man of the mountain, hiding out while the temporal kingdoms battle during the periodic dark ages of mankind thing?

  25. jonboinAR

    This is to Mrs. Smith. I put out on this thread a call to organize. It appears to have been deleted, unless I was mistaken in thinking it posted. Do you not wish for such overt political activity to be done on your blog? If you don’t, do you know of another way I can make contact with some of the commenters here? Many seem in agreement with the current topic that the political parties as they are organized don’t represent us. I felt that my comment/call was at least somewhat apropo to the subject, which is one oft repeated here and on other similar boards. Is there a way I can invite your commenters to organize without it being considered spam?

    Jon Strait

  26. Attitude_Check

    The fact that the Democratic party endorsed a Chicago machine politician as President, should make it no surprise that corruption and money politics are the primary drivers now — not old-school progressive/liberal issues.

  27. James

    @Yves, I don’t know what your connection to Matt Stoller is and why you keep letting him post on this site, but his paranoid political half-truths do not add to rational policy discourse.

    @Nearly everyone else.I’m going to go on a long rant so bear with me. I’ll just start at the beginning:

    “Since the 1970s, Democratic elites have focused on
    breaking public sector unions and financializing the
    economy . . . Obama continues this trend.”

    That doesn’t make any sense. Obama was elected by a broad coalition of voters of which one of his strongest supporters were public sector Unions. SEIU strongly supported Obama in his election and helped gain what little support he did get for much of the legislation he passed during his first two years. During that period Andy Stern was the leader of SEIU and was one of the most frequent visitors to the White House. Obama also instituted a policy of all but requiring that nearly all gov’t contracts go to Unions. I don’t see the difference between requiring stimulus jobs be done by Unions and giving no-bid contracts to say Haliburton because with both you are cutting out competition in order to play political favoritism.

    “Despite Obama violating every core tenet of what might
    have been considered the Democratic Party platform, from
    supporting foreclosures to destroying civil liberties
    to torturing political dissidents to wrecking unions . .”

    1. Obama has passed a mortgage relief bill and veto a bill that would have made it harder for individuals to challenge foreclosures.
    2. As a Tea Party person you would assume that I would agree that Obama is destroying civil liberties, but I don’t know what Stoller is actually talking about. Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act which extends the statute of limitations for workplace discrimination actions. He has filed suit against Arizona for its immigration law. He signed an order to close Guantanamo, started trying terrorist in US Courts, and ended the use of enhanced interrogations/torture.
    3. So, healthcare reform, cap and trade, union card check, and financial regulation reform aren’t part of the Democratic platform? Obama got three out of the four. Card-check isn’t happening but the EPA is going to start issue regulations on CO2 this year.

    My frustrating have boiled over and that is why I am writing this long response. I’m tired of people on different sides of the political spectrum thinking that they can have only the facts that support what they believe. Obama has just finished one of the most productive first two years of any President in US history, probably only FDR did more. He didn’t accomplish everything Liberals/Statist/Stoller wants so now he has to be a failure/betrayer of Democratic ideals? Start living in the real world people. The US Gov’t is designed to move slowly and requires broad consensus to pass any large structural changes. Obama got passed just about everything he had a realistic chance of passing. Anything else would require the dismantling of political infrastructure and replacing it with something else (ala a revolution, maybe a socialist/communist one). The EPA has already demonstrated; however, the real win of Obamacare. It sets up unelected administrators that will pass regulations of healthcare in the USA without needing another congressional vote. And since the general trend is for liberals to be drawn to gov’t work and public sector unions are already aligned with the Democratic party, it is highly probably that many things that weren’t included in Obamacare will become the law of the land through administrative action.

    In a general sense, I have to agree with Stoller. In many ways Obama is a continuation of power for the ruling class elite that run the country. He has many carry-over policies from the Bush administration and thus a good amount of similarities to the former President. I’ll take this moment to say that any similarities to Bush does not mean Obama is a traitor because Bush is not the right-wing extremist so many people think he is/was. Bush is best described as a moderate President. He supported right wing issues (strong national defense/opposition to abortion), left-wing issues (unprecedented educational spending/prescription drug benefits), and elitist policies (TARP/easy money policy).

    As an aside, any time a Tea Party person calls Obama facist it is because of his tendency to consolidate power away from the elected policy making parts of gov’t, ie his innumerably czars and supports for administrative action over congressional action.

    Back to the elite topic. I have heard it said that the USA is a benign oligarchy. We are ruled by elites, but they have been kind to us. I think the benign period is over. For the last 20-30 years, the elites in this country have been creating a plantation of debt in America with the big banks being the once that get to harvest. From student debt to mortgages to credit cards to the national debt we as a nation owe. What is scary is how coordinated it all seems to have been and because it runs across Democratic and Republican Presidencies/Congressional periods, how bipartisan it is.

    What we need is a fundamental renegotiation of the social contract between the elites in this country and everyone else. That is the central belief of the Tea Party. Now, you and I might disagree on what the terms of the next contract will be, but understand that the Tea Party is not the arm of the Republican party nor a racist entity.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      First, you have no business criticizing my choice of people to post here.

      Second, Stoller is a DC insider. His readings on other matters have been spot on and prescient. He isn’t paranoid, and your depiction of him as such simply reflects on your reluctance to see where the political reality lies.

      Third, the fact that SEIU and the traditional left has been suckered into backing Obama due to the limits of the two party system does not mean their interests are being served. Look at the treatment of the auto unions in the GM bailout versus the employees of TBTF banks, for starters.

      Fourth, I disagree completely with your characterization of Obama’s record. Productive? Bullshit. “Productive” implies progress. What we got was a lot of legislative motion and just about zero in the way of real progress. Dodd Frank was not reform, it merely rearranged the deck chairs and inconveniences banks around the margin as a cover for continued looting. The health care “reform” bill? Please. It’s a transfer to big Pharma and the health insurers. The extension of coverage to the uninsured is going to prove to be a headfake. They will get very little in the way of services for what they pay. Coverage will be thin and have a lot of gaps.

      Fifth, you have some facts wrong. Obama may have signed an order re Gitmo, but Gitmo remains open. Obama has fought in court and won on the issue of suspending habeas corpus. The US still engages in extraordinary rendition. Obama promised to support net neutrality, then flipped when he got into office. Obama continues to ignore widespread surveillance abuses. He also reserves the right to use advanced interrogation techniques:

      I don’t know where you got this rose view of Obama, but it appears his PR works.

      Fifth, the use of the term “statist” is a tipoff, that’s straight Koch camp talk. So we know where you are coming from.

      1. James

        1. I’ll apologize. It is wrong for me to say who you should post on your blog. Maybe I am being unfair to Stoller. I am associating him with Alan Grayson. Call me crazy, but I have problems being called a racist killer, which Grayson was prone to do with people of my general political persuasion.

        2. I am not a troller from any Koch entity (or any entity or organization). I hope you believe me but I would be willing to Prove that to you in some way if you like. I read your blog every day. I’m a lawyer and an economist friend of mine that reads your blog convinced me to start reading it. I guess I should thank you and the contributors here because I have learned a lot about economics and the problems we face from your free service here.

        3. I would like to respond more but I’m working into the night and won’t be able to respond to any points until later.

        1. Doug Terpstra

          A few uninitiated commenters here are nitpicking Matt’s post as if it were a published dissertation. As Yves noted at the top, this was simply a brief comment to another regular post and hence missing context, scope, and detail.

          But for its brevity, its gist is spot on: both parties were relentlessly captured by the financial-military complex, turning partisanship conflict into mere theater. Matt’s point is that this inexorable coup began some time ago, and much of the audience and even many of the actors on stage still haven’t caught on. This is Matt’s eye-opening red pill for tribalists: democracy has gone bye-bye, Neo.

          Extending and compounding all of Bush’s regressive policies, including stealth bailouts, intractable wars, torture, and now assassinations, Obama represents a diabolically brilliant Trojan horse for the ruling financial-military elite, effectively neutering the “professional left”, and especially the black community, a traditional anchor for progressive policy.

          Next up on the auction block—amid hand-wringing, howling and gnashing of teeth over deficits—is the Neocon Holy Grail: Social Security. Count on Obama using the newly bristling Republican briar patch as cover for another spectacular sellout.

          See also Hugh’s comment below.

  28. XRayD

    “Since the 1970s, Democratic elites have focused on breaking public sector unions …”

    The seminal moment was Reagan breaking the Air Traffic Controllers strike.

    Coming after Carter’s deregulation of the airlines and the ascendancy of “free markets” – this was the beginning of the end for the unions.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Read Bill Greider’s Secrets of the Temple. Volcker was deliberately trying to create labor slack, he used construction worker wages (IIRC) as his proxy. That’s THE way to reduce bargaining power of labor.

      The fact that the effort was taken up more forcefully and frontally under Reagan does not alter the fact that it started under Carter.

      1. XRayD

        Perhaps true, but I think something like construction wages are ultimately going to be set by supply/demand and markets – and we do have construction unions in many parts of our economy still.

        IMO what made Reagan’s stance against the ATC was the fact that it was a POLITICAL stance – keeping with his “government is the problem” view (which currently lives on as the Tea Party!) Note the currently brewing public v/s private sector salaries and benefits debate!

        Of course, public sector unions now dominate – and their services are not as directly subject to market prices.

  29. John Merryman

    Top down order and bottom up energy are two sides of the same coin. Too much pressure from the top and the structure crumbles. Too much chaos from the bottom and there is fragmentation. So it will always be a balancing act. Too much control and the result is North Korea. Too much fragmentation and it is Somalia.
    What is happening now is a break down of the capitalist ecosystem. Capital is subject to the laws of supply and demand, but supply tends to have more short term political influence than demand, so productive investment loses its footing in the flood of unstable capital creation.
    A true elite would let this excess capital be destroyed in order to preserve the monetary system, but current policies seem bent on destroying the monetary system in order to preserve the status quo. The eventual consequence will be a truly public financial system, in which money is understood as the public contract it is and not a form of personal property, since that will be the only way to maintain a capital supply commensurate with the size of the economy.
    Banking is the circulatory system of the economy, much as government is the central nervous system. Monarchy was only shed because it was no longer adequate to govern complex masses of people. Similarly, the private banking system is proving inadequate to manage the effective allocation of convertible resources within the economy and a public system will have to be devised. Likely this will be a bottom up structure, starting with states and localities forming their own banking and monetary structures, when this current system eventually collapses.
    With a local public system, wealth generated within the local economy will be invested locally and the profits used to support necessary local infrastructure. Eventually, when the system of trust has developed sufficient strength, larger cooperative structures will rise up from this foundation.
    Much as we tend to view reality from the top down position of our current vantage point, evolution is a bottom up process and when the structures become unstable, they fall down and something new rises out of the rubble and lessons.

    1. chrisTiburon

      Here’s a highly successful model:

      “Though initially conceived by Non-Partisan League populists as a credit union-style institution to free the farmers of the state from predatory lenders, the Bank’s functions were largely neutered by the time of its inception by the business-backed Independent Voters Association. The recall of NPL Governor Lynn Frazier effectively ended the initial plan, with BND taking a more conservative central banking role in state finance. The current president and CEO is Eric Hardmeyer, however the bank is managed by the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which is composed of the Governor, Attorney General, and the Agriculture Commissioner(formerly the Agriculture and Labor Commissioner) of North Dakota[1].

      The Bank of North Dakota is the only state-owned facility of its type in the United States…”

    2. XRayD

      Capital is subject to the laws of supply and demand only. Capital has to come from saving.

      Who sets the price of savings? Clearly the Fed does – and it has been mis-priced for a long time.

      Capital is also “created” by invest bankers, who write their own laws of supply and demand. And we know how that worked out.

      The above entities in collusion are now sticking it to the real creators of capital, the savers and the innovators starved for it, and the tax payers.

      Mind you, I have nothing against the system as it operated before “financial engineering or innovation” took it over – in the pre-bonus days before Wall Street INC.

      1. John Merryman

        Actually lots of it comes from speculation. When it can get borrowed into existence at 2%, while assets are appreciating at 5,10%, it starts a feedback loop until people are no longer willing to take the chance of being the last buyer. Now the government is the last buyer to keep the bubble from collapsing completely.
        The financial sector has always run Washington. Volcker didn’t cure inflation by raising interest rates, because you don’t cure an oversupply(of capital) by raising prices. The difference between the Fed selling debt and the Treasury selling debt is that while both draw down the money supply, the Treasury usually sells a lot more and uses it pump up the economy. By the Fed’s own logic of selling bonds to draw down the money supply, a surplus of capital is in the hands of those with a surplus of capital. This is not a politically convenient fact. So the inflation of the seventies is still there as government debt. Demand to maintain the supply.
        One of the main reasons the government overspends is because that is how it is designed. They draw up these enormous bills and then add enough to get sufficient votes to pass them. The result is lots of government debt, which provides demand for capital. A normal budgeting process is to list spending priorities and then draw the line at what can be afforded. If the government wanted to do that, they could break those bills into their various items, have every legislator assign a percentage value to each one, reassemble them in order of preference and have the president draw the line. There would be little inclination to overspend, because the constituency for the few items on the line would be much smaller than those being asked to pay for them. Of course, this would crash the Treasury markets.
        They are going to implode eventually anyway, so maybe it’s an idea for the future. The local spending lost would be covered by a local public banking system.

    3. XRayD

      I’m with you on bottoms up evolution.

      Unfortunately, Washington and Wall Street believe and operate by “intelligent design”.

      They think, till things fall down – and then its back to their drawing boards.

      I can’t think of too many things in this country that “fell down” and then emerged a new from the bottom.

      The current banking situation is a classic example of things going the wrong way!

      1. John Merryman

        It’s a matter of how far it falls. Nature is always pushing the reset button. Thus we die and new generations are born. It’s the same with elites. Eventually they crash their own system and something new rises in its place. That’s what I liked about Bush. When you want serious change, having the powers that be drive the bus off the cliff can be a benefit. Obama is just finishing it off.
        When the dollar start to crash, I want to see Reagan on the thousand dollar bill. Bush Sr. on the ten thousand. Clinton on the hundred thousand. W on the million and at this rate, Obama on the billion dollar bill.

  30. Hugh

    “It isn’t that he’s not fighting, he fights like hell for what he wants.”

    This is what many of us have been saying for a very long time. Corporate friendly Obamacare came out exactly the way Obama wanted it. Obama wanted a surge in Afghanistan. We have a surge in Afghanistan. Obama wanted weak regulation of the banks. We have weak regulation of them.

    The whole idea that Obama’s agenda has been obstructed by Congressional Republicans always failed to take into account all the areas where Obama as Executive could act without Congressional interference. Most obviously he could have investigated the widespread criminality of the Bush Administration and Wall Street. He could have ended the wars and closed Guantanamo. He could have ended DADT administratively on day one of his Presidency. Instead his Justice department opposed even the most well founded habeas petitions of Guantanamo prisoners. He refused to even apologize to those wrongly renditioned and tortured like Maher Arar. The DOJ fought every suit against DADT. The Anti-Trust Division of the DOJ could have been used against the TBTF but never was. He never even bothered to get rid of most of the politicized Republican US Attorneys involved in a string of Bush era bogus prosecutions. Nobody forced Obama to re-appoint Ben Bernanke. Nobody forced him to appoint his Cat Food Commission or stack it with Social Security haters. The list of actions which he could have taken or which he could have let go goes on and on.

    But this isn’t the end of the matter. Obama filled his Administration with Republicans and Clinton era neoliberal and neocon retreads but you would be hard pressed to find even one unabashed progressive in his entire Administration.

    Nor is even this the end. Returning to Congress, there were all the fights that neither he nor the Democrats put up. On so many issues, it wasn’t that they fought and lost. It was that they didn’t even try.

    That is why I say, and have been saying, look at what Obama and the Democrats have done for the last two years. Forget the rhetoric. That’s the real agenda. It is corporatist to the core but then so are the Democrats.

    1. Ziggy

      Yup. One can argue about what’s gone down all day long, but in the end one can learn all they need to know by just following the money.

      There’s a movement waiting to be jump started – I’m calling it Free Democrats, or “FreeDems” – a coalition of non-elite progressives, libertarians and conservatives who align on campaign finance, jobs and other economic issues that affect be bottom 98 percent income brackets.

      It’s power and infleence would be overwhelming, but who is going to get out front and lead?

    2. Elliot X

      Hugh said: “look at what Obama and the Democrats have done for the last two years. Forget the rhetoric. That’s the real agenda. It is corporatist to the core but then so are the Democrats.”

      There can be no more illusions: Obama and the Democrats are the enemy of every progressive struggle today.

  31. scraping_by

    The best way to rob a bank is to own one. The best way to defeat the Democrats is to join them. Here’s an economic principle for the real world.

    Wedge issues and group conflict keep the 70% to 90% of people in this country who agree from gathering together. And as for a third party, that’s uphill. Just look at AZ, where the Republicans have infiltrated.

    Historically, the best hope for massive change is when a oligarchy gets cheap with its mainstay support. Say, police unions getting busted. Soldiers being crippled and thrown out on street, literally. The lawyers who led the American Revolution are no help, they’ve been selected for amoral greed. They’ve already made a policy of betraying the intelligence officers. Who are the enforcers who will be one disposal too many, whose patriotism becomes their downfall? Time will tell.

    1. Nathanael

      “Historically, the best hope for massive change is when a oligarchy gets cheap with its mainstay support.”

      And they’ve been doing that, haven’t they. No Burmese Junta tactics here (they treat their military like pampered overlords there).

  32. anonymous

    “Gore recognized that humanity is facing the critical issue of climate change”

    everytime I hear a statement like this I get a good laugh. And Gore- what a joke! A phony if ever there was one. Talk about a rich elite telling the joes and janes to turn down the thermostat while he jets off to Paris to have lunch.

  33. Dibbles

    Wow. Where to even begin with Matt’s revisionism of events as I remember them. I’m surprised, Yves, that you would reprint this. Some of his assertions are extremely questionable.

    But begin I will, with NAFTA. While he did sign it into law, Clinton was not the originator or author of NAFTA. It was signed by President George H.W. Bush, Mexican President Salinas, and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1992. It was ratified by the legislatures of the three countries in 1993. The House approved it by 234 to 200 on November 17 and the Senate by 60 to 38 on November 20. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on December 8, 1993 and entered force January 1, 1994. Both parties strongly supported this.

    As a strong anti-Vietnam war candidate, I supported George McGovern for his presidential bid in 1972. In spite of being a WW2 combat veteran, he was portrayed as being weak because he opposed that war. I was also a Carter supporter. In spite of being a submarine nuclear engineer in the U.S. Navy stationed in the Pacific, he too was portrayed as being a wimp because he was not militaristic enough. Yet it was Carter that brokered lasting peace between Egypt and Israel with the historic Camp David Accord. Had Carter been reelected – as polls overwhelmingly indicated he would have been until the October Surprise – we most likely would be free from reliance on foreign oil and the constant need to wage war in order to secure it. And instead have advanced in alternative energy development.

    After the defeat of Korean War veteran Walter Mondale in his bid for the presidency, (due to the perception that he was not hawkish enough) I remember all too well the formation of the DLC and it’s solicitation of Wall Street/big business donors – a constituency which had been dominantly the Republican party’s. That began the disconnect between unions and working Americans, myself included, and the eventual marginalizing of all but the most lucrative donors.

    Matt also writes “Moreover, no Senate Democratic incumbent lost a primary challenge in 2010, despite a horrible governing posture.” That is certainly a matter of opinion! My Democratic senators were always receptive to my calls and emails. Vast amounts of Wall Street/U.S. Chamber of Commerce money waged a nasty, brutal campaign to retire my one of my senators. Fortunately the citizens of my state understood the hard work, tireless dedication, and fierce loyalty to veterans that she represented, and returned her to the senate for 6 more years. Had her opponent won, it would clearly have been a huge win for investment bankers at the expense of working people and our environment.

    But as Matt not-so-subtly insinuates, the Democratic party today bears little difference from the Republican Party other than having conflicting loyalties. By attempting to live in the shadow of its’ former greatness that won WW2 and built the middle class prosperity of the FDR economy, it will remain disingenuous. And unfortunately a party of strong, often opposing regional differences (cat-herding). Not a winning combination for many of us.

  34. devster

    Yea, I really enjoyed the piece too. After Obama I now realize the only real difference between the Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans don’t mind the smell of a few inconvenient corpses.

  35. TK in Texas

    What is the factual basis of this lead premise of the post: “Since the 1970s, Democratic elites have focused on breaking public sector unions and financializing the economy.”? The part about breaking public sector unions seems obviously false. “Financializing the economy” is kind of vague, but the Democrats pratice money politics, so it is an enabler scenario. The term “elites” is vague. Bad post Yves.

    1. Juan

      ‘According to University of California economic geographer Gillian Hart, ‘Medium and long-term public debt [of low-income countries] shot up from $75.1 billion in 1970 to $634.4 billion in 1983. It was the so-called Volcker Shock… that ushered in the debt crisis, the neoliberal counterrevolution, and vastly changed roles of the World Bank and IMF in Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia.’
      [Patrick Bond, LBO-Talk, 10/11/08]

      ‘Stuart Eizenstat, Carter’s assistant for domestic affairs said that, “Volcker was selected because he was the candidate of Wall Street.” The Wall Street agenda became clear when Volcker contracted the money supply and declared, “the standard of living of the average American has to decline.”
      [Greider//Michael Smith…]

      Not all that vague.

  36. Stephen Malagodi

    Getting closer…

    What we have had, in effect, is a ruling two-party coalition government in which the two parties do not oppose each other, they compete for dominance (and rewards) by protecting the interests of the economy.

    1. The problem is not the President, it’s the Presidency.
    The President is President of the [United] States, not the United People.

    2. The early States were formed as Royal Charters; Corporations. Their mission: create wealth for the king, his governors and the landed elites.

    3. The President’s job is to maintain the military and economic alliance of the States, whose local elites often compete with each other.

    4. Just as slavery was an impediment to industrialism, Labor itself is an impediment to post-industrialism. Labor as we know it is becoming increasing irrelevant to the creation of wealth.

    5. As ‘Labor’ loses value and the economy internationalizes, the need for the ‘nation-state’ as an economic entity decreases while it’s value and role as a police-state increases. Organized intelligence gathering and police ‘enforcement’ are the growing roles for the State. This is precisely why we see right-wing emphasis on ‘deregulation’ of the economy and stricter ‘law-enforcement’ measures against the populace. That’s what government’s have to offer; permits for wealth, ‘persuasion’ for people, and police power when that fails.

    6. This is not about a group of ruling elites any more. The economy is autonomous. Its global nervous system of fiber-optics and silicon synapses is quickly evolving. Human beings are evolving in conjunction with this (our) environment too, as we always have.

    The nation-state as an organizing mechanism is finished. The efforts of both current political parties are merely attempts at crowd control at this point.

    We must concentrate on surviving this evolutionary jump, not in preserving the old shell of industrial capitalism and its veneer of democracy. The keys to survival will be compassion, cooperation and local autonomy.

    Stop bitching about the President. Start looking around.

  37. Karen

    Between this, and the next post about Third Way, and Richard Alford’s piece about PPIP, I am now ready to jump off a bridge! Aauugghhhhh!!!

  38. Anjon Roy

    Very Fascinating stuff Matt!

    What are your thoughts on a Possible “anti-corporatist Left-Right” alliances between progressives and libertarian conservatives? Instead of the usual “bi-partisan compromises” we see that ends up uniting the pro-establishment Left and Right, wouldn’t it be great if we could see the Anti-establishment Left and Right unite?!

    I think your former boss was part of it, with his critiques of the Federal Reserve (no doubt you informed him of this) in his alliance with Ron Paul on the subject.

    Gerald Celente is predicting this rise of a “Progressive Libertarian” movement as part of a Global Youth uprising in 2011

    and now Nader is backing him

    I could see the Yves and the NC community being part of this very loose ecosystem of Progressive Libertarians


  39. Tom Hickey

    The Democratic control of both branches and the presidency proved that there is one party in the US with two names. It represents the oligarchy that pays the rent.

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