The Democratic turncoats behind the “Fix the Debt” attack on Medicare & Social Security

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Follow Gaius on Twitter: @gaius_publius. Originally published at AMERICAblog.

Most left-side commenters paint “Fix the Debt” — the well-funded campaign to scare Americans into believing the debt is not only going to destroy us all, but that massive cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid are the only way to “fix” the “problem” — as a billionaire-led, CEO-led operation to kill (or at least seriously maim) the social programs by delivering one blow after another. But Fix the Debt is also a bipartisan operation.

This is about bipartisanship — real bipartisanship, bipartisanship in the bad way. In a recent post about how the American people overwhelmingly want to strengthen Social Security (and the rest of the social programs), I made the following point about “centrism“:

People who perform on TV are fond of talking about the “centrist” position, or the “bipartisan consensus” on various economic matters. This presumes a vertical left-right divide with some kind of center between them.

The real divide in this country is not Left versus Right — it’s the Rich versus the Rest. It’s the horizontal division between the people taking all the money they can, and those they’re taking it from.

Among the rich, there’s a widely-agreed center position — more for us, less for everyone else on the planet.

As the poll above makes very clear, there’s also a widely-agreed center position among the rest of us — keep your stinking hands off of our last protection against poverty.

Keep that horizontal division in mind as you look at what follows. The left-right divide among the elites, the 1%, is usually represented as Democratic vs. Republican. But that’s only true among the electorate, and then only on some issues. As the following shows very clearly, the leadership of both parties is deeply in bed with the Billionaire push — fronted by Pete Peterson — to kill off the social programs.

There’s a true bipartisan consensus among billionaire-backed Democrats and billionaire-backed Republicans — “All your money are belong to us.”

Fix the Debt is a true bipartisan operation

Take a look at the great research done on “Fix the Debt” by the true-progressive watchdog group SourceWatch and PRwatch, the good folks who brought you ALECexposed.

From their new Fix the Debt portal, we find this about Fix the Debt and its leadership (my emphasis everywhere and some reparagraphing):

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation’s “debt problem.” Through a special report and new interactive wiki resource, the Center for Media and Democracy — in partnership with the Nation magazine — exposes the funding, the leaders, the partner groups, and the phony state “chapters” of this astroturf supergroup. Learn more at and in the Nation magazine.

Fix the Debt is led by the president of the CRFB, Maya MacGuineas. Erskine Bowles, and Alan Simpson are listed as its “founders.” Michael Bloomberg, Judd Gregg, and Ed Rendell are listed as its “co-chairs.” There is an 11 member steering committee. …

Ed Rendell is a co-chairman of Fix the Debt. In media appearances, he is only introduced as the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania (2003-2011), yet he has extensive corporate and financial ties.

A fine mix of perps. Erskine Bowles is a Clinton man. Bowles and Simpson are Obama men, hand-picked by our president to lead his personal “fix the debt” commission, aka the Catfood Commission. Judd Gregg was the Republican that Obama wanted to install in his first-term cabinet as Secretary of Big Money. (Scorecard note: When you hear Simpson–Bowles, you should see Barack Obama. In my mind, they are his surrogates, his water-carriers, just as he and Bill Clinton are Pete Peterson’s water-carriers.)

Finally, Ed Rendell is not a liberal, but he plays one on TV, thanks to the always generous face-time offered him by MSNBC’s supposed liberal program hosts. More on Rendell’s corporate ties and conflicts of interest below.

Other Democrats running Peterson’s Fix the Debt

We also find these Democrats involved with Fix the Debt (from the same source):

Phil Bredesen

Phil Bredesen is on Fix the Debt’s steering committee. As Democratic governor of Tennessee, he “presided over the largest state cutback of public health programs in the history of our nation,” according to health care advocacy group FamiliesUSA. In 2004, Governor Bredesen did away with Tennessee’s state health care program, TennCare, and reverted to standard Medicaid, eliminating coverage for 430,000 people, and imposted [sic] strict limits on prescription drugs and doctor visits, with no appeals. This resulted in budget surpluses.

Vic Fazio

Vic Fazio is on Fix the Debt’s steering committee. He is a former [Democratic] member of Congress (1979-1999) who works as a corporate lobbyist. He has lobbied for AT&T, Corrections Corporation of America, Archer Daniels Midland, Shell Oil, Blumberg Capital, the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, Dow Chemical, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, and Waste Management.

Sam Nunn

Sam Nunn is on Fix the Debt’s steering committee. He was the longtime [Democratic] chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee (1987–1995). He is Co-Chairman and Chief Executive of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), an organization working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Steven Rattner

Steven Rattner is on Fix the Debt’s steering committee. He is a former investment banker for two decades at Lehman Brothers, Lazard Freres and Morgan Stanley. Rattner was the Treasury Department’s point man on the 2009 bailout of the auto industry by the Obama administration. He is on the board of the New America Foundation, the Pete Peterson-funded parent organization of Fix the Debt and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB). Rattner is also chairman of Willett Advisors LLC, the investment arm for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $25 billion in assets.

Rattner’s wife also has strong ties to the leadership of the Democratic Party

Rattner is married to Maureen White, who served for five years as finance chair for the Democratic National Committee and is now the Senior Advisor on Humanitarian Issues to the Special Representative-Afghanistan and Pakistan for the U.S. Department of State.

Yet more Democrats on the Fix the Debt steering committee:

Alice Rivlin

Alice Rivlin is on Fix the Debt’s steering committee. She is best known for her role as budget director in the Clinton administration (1994-1996). She has deep ties to the finance industry and to budget austerity advocacy groups funded by Pete Peterson. A former vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board (1996-1999) … Rivlin … was also a member of the Simpson-Bowles Commission … where she voted for Simpson and Bowles’ recommended $200 billion annual cuts in discretionary spending, raising of the Social Security retirement age, cutting the federal workforce by ten percent, and reducing federal pensions and student loan subsidies.

Antonio Villaraigosa

Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat who has been Los Angeles’ 41st mayor since July 1, 2005, is on Fix the Debt’s steering committee. He was President of the United States Conference of Mayors in 2011-2012. He has previously been the Democratic leader and Speaker of the California State Assembly and a member of the Los Angeles City Council. He was also Chairman of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in September 2012.

In the past, he was a union organizer for the Service Employees International Union and United Teachers Los Angeles, and then President of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Federation of Government Employees.

And that just takes you down through the steering committee. That’s some load of big-time Dems.

Fix the Debt and corruption

One more point needs to be made. Many (or most) of these individuals have big-time conflicts of interest. Again, these are documented by Source Watch. Just one example, there’s this about Ed Rendell’s “extensive corporate and financial ties” mentioned above:

UNDISCLOSED CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Rendell lobbied for KCI USA, a wound care technology company, on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements in 2012. Rendell is special counsel to the law firm Ballard Spahr – which has been criticized as a union-busting law firm. – where he focuses on privatization and housing, with an emphasis on infrastructure. Rendell is also a senior adviser at Greenhill & Co., a multinational investment bank. Ninety percent of Greenhill’s revenue comes from advisory assignments, including to public officials.

Rendell is a strong proponent of “public private partnerships” (PPPs) in infrastructure, which have been criticized as a dubious form of privatization of public assets. Rendell is also on the advisory board of Verdeva, a firm developing technology to track motorists at the gas pump so they can be taxed for infrastructure revenue, an industry-favored measure for developing the income streams they need to finance infrastructure deals. Hel [sic] has also joined the venture capital firm Element Partners as an operating partner. Element Partners recently invested in oil and gas extraction (fracking) from the Marcellus formation.

Ed Rendell is the servant of Money. He works for Money; he does its bidding; that’s his career path and the source of his personal income stream. Fix the Debt is a perfect way to starve the beast (government) then sell it public-private fixes, like Obama’s health care bill, and Ed Rendell is perfectly placed to both wield the axe (via Fix the Debt) and salve the wound he caused (via his corporate-solutions lobbying).

There’s more about the many conflicts of interest in this handy table. Stunning, and a fast read. Do take a look.

This is what “starve the beast” looks like from the “left”

One last word and then I’ll close. Both parties want to starve the beast — underfund government so drastically that it can’t function alone. Both parties want to privatize public services. I was not joking, or being excessively snarky, when I wrote that the Democrats are every bit as evil as the Republicans when it comes to economic policy.

■ From the Republicans you get blatant privatization, such as Bush’s 2005 attack on Social Security or Paul Ryan’s Medicare voucher plan.

■ From the Democrats, you get back-door privatization, like Obama’s Health Care act. Ask yourself — why didn’t Obama just offer a bill that expanded Medicare to everyone in the country? Answer: Because he wanted to shovel money into corporate (meaning, billionaire CEO) hands with a “public-private solution” to a public policy problem. This is always the Neoliberal “solution” — starve the government along with the Republicans, then sell public-private “deals” that screw the public while offering pretend or partial solutions.

The difference? Republicans don’t want to offer any solutions to public needs, while Democrats will offer pretend or partial solutions — ‘cuz you know, they’re the party that cares. Yep, that’s branding; that’s their product differentiator. It’s not that all elected Democrats don’t care, it’s just that their leaders don’t, and elected Democrats always play Follow the Neoliberal Leader when it comes time to vote.

Don’t believe me? Think about that crappy filibuster deal, which every Democratic senator vote for. Or watch those 100 Democrats who signed Keith Ellison’s sequester “no cuts” letter when they have to pull their grown-up pants on at Congressional roll-call time.

Notice that I didn’t say “from the Right” and “from the Left” in the above formulation. Democratic Party leaders — who own the total party structure, progressives and all — are not the “left.” They aren’t even Democrats by FDR–Lyndon Johnson standards. Today’s Dem leaders are “neo-Dems,” meaning not-Dems, in the same way that “New Labour” in Britain is not-Labour. They’re just the opposite, in fact; they’re the Right, dressed for bicoastal dinner.

To call Barack Obama a Democrat in his economic policies is a triumph of branding … only.

To make that point, I’d like to leave you with two videos. The first you’ve seen before, but I want to keep it before you. Barack Obama 1.0, branded for easy consumption:

Note that the branding was done for free, and by someone who truly believed — just like many progressive activists do today, I might add.

The next video includes the above-mentioned Alice Rivlin, shilling to “youth” about Fix the Debt and all the goodness it offers them. Yep, that’s her in the center, rocking up a storm, just like the “kids”:

They may be a clown car, those happy bipartisans, but they’re extremely well funded.

Did both videos make you gag, just a little? They should have, just a little. (And yes, that was a test. The taste in your mouth will tell you your score.)

Tastefully yours,


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Zachary Smith

    I wish I could dismantle this essay – tear it to shreds!

    But I can’t, and gagging is probably better than crying.

    BHO: my private ranking of him is second-worst POTUS in my lifetime. Worst? IMO Reagan still has the title.

    My attitude of 6 years ago was such I can’t imagine writing that back then, but I’m a little older and a LOT more cynical these days.

    1. rotter

      Not cynical, but better informed, and arent we all these days. I cant believe how unexamined my opinions were for a long long time. Growing up in the US during the cold war it was easy. We were still rich and everything was all somehow, not real.

    2. David B Teague

      Zachary Smith: These were worse than BHO: George HW Bush, for his appointing of Clarence Thomas to Thurgood Marshall’s SCOTUS seat, and his son, George W Bush, for his lies, his Vice President, his unfunded wars and his incredible deficits. These qualify as worse than BHO.I would collect RWR, GHWB, and GWB togther as the worse Presidents in history. I belive putting this bunch in any order of badness is impossible.

    3. Nathanael

      The right-wing Democrats listed are the usual suspects. Rendell was a bad ‘un as Governor of Pennsylvnania; Sam Nunn has been a monster since forever; and so forth.

  2. different clue

    I have a question for people who know more about the intricacies of Senate Function than I do.

    How many sincere Senators would it actually require to prevent passage of the Catfood Plan through the Senate? By “sincere” I mean truly eager to paralyze or destroy the Senate for several-to-many years to come if that is the price to be paid for stopping the Catfood Plan? How many Senators would have to actually use every little trick they know about Senatorial Parliamentary Procedure and so forth . . . to prevent every appointment, every law, every everything until the Catfood Plan was throat-cut and bled-out in open view on the Senate Floor?

    1. JGordon

      I’d imagine that there are probably around 13 sincere, (relatively) non-corrupt members in the Senate.

      Of those, some are likely in favor of gutting entitlements, while some others aren’t. But most senators will just vote how they’re paid to vote, although they’ll probably do their standard villain rotation kabuki theater to make it at least look like there was some drama there.

      1. different clue

        All right. Is 13 a sufficient number? Are 13 Senators enough to destroy the Catfood Plan if they are sincere? I mean sincere enough to destroy the Senate itself if that is what it takes to stop the Catfood Plan?

        If 13 sincere Senators is all it takes to stop the Catfood Plan, then who are those 13 sincere Senators? Lets get to work on them and make them really really sincere.
        As in “willing to destroy the Senate in order to destroy the Catfood Plan” sincere.

        1. JGordon

          Well first of all “sincere” doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re on your side; it just means that they aren’t corrupt. And no, I don’t think the few decent ones will be able to oppose whatever the corporate state decides to do.

          So start making alternative plans like I have been. Studying permaculture would be a good start.

          1. different clue

            What would be the very first most basic books and websites to begin studying Permaculture from? At the level of learning to crawl before learning to walk? And what would be a couple of grand Magnum Opus books and/or sites beyond those?

  3. JGordon

    Whichever side of this thing you come down on, it’s really just a value judgement. Some people are in favor of trashing the value of the currency; other’s aren’t. But in the end it doesn’t really matter since this is all a semiotic fantasy board game that a bunch of folks who take themselves and their ideological beliefs too seriously are playing against each other. Meanwhile the house they’re playing it in is burning down around them.

    By the way, my wage hasn’t gone up for the past seven years (in fact it’s gone down a lot) but the price of food and gas and rent and school and insurance keeps going up and up, just about every day. If I hadn’t learned how to grow my own food recently, and learned how to operate in the informal economy outside of your rigged fiat game, I’d be at the end of my rope right now. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about that though.

    1. Carla

      “Meanwhile the house they’re playing it in is burning down around them.”

      I think the players are on the expansive lawns outside, having a picnic and enjoying the bonfire. We’re the ones in the burning house.

      1. JGordon

        Ultimately they are just parasites who are feeding off the host, although they don’t seem to understand that fact yet. Us workers who are the host have the opportunity to just say to hell with it and jump out of the house early, before it burns to the ground. The parasites elites have no other way to live though; they’ll be trapped inside till the end.

  4. skippy

    Personally I prefer the term – Cull – to Austerity or Catfood Plan, but, the wizards of marketing – branding, found it tested low on the gullibility scale.

    Skippy… Never fear… their working on it… some day… soon.

  5. pws


    “The real divide in this country is not Left versus Right — it’s the Rich versus the Rest. It’s the horizontal division between the people taking all the money they can, and those they’re taking it from.”

    is why I say the big problem in America is not ideology but vulgar corruption. People who go into politics simply to grab all the loot they can, people like Barack Obama and his cronies, don’t have an ideology. That’s why they can profess anything, but when it comes time to act on their talk, only the talk that doesn’t cut down on the sweet, sweet graft they are receiving will be acted on.

    However, I’m wondering if the American state is fatally compromised. Put it another way, I wonder how much starvation the American public can take, in the end.

    I guess we’ll find out.

  6. Addicted

    This essay is so much liberal junk. Yeah some democrats want to cut money from the not-haves to the have all. But, unlike republicans there are Dems who want to do the opposite. Also, these Dems can be persuaded, unlike the repubs. Why don’t we look at openly democratic billionaires? Warren buffet or Tom Steyer who are asking for more taxes on the rich?

    There are terrible Dems. The vast majority were elected from conservative, or hedge fund money driven areas. They are still not as bad as the repubs. This essay tried to paint the Dems as bad as the repubs when that isn’t even close to true, and worse it does not single out the bad Dems.

    With friends like these who needs enemies…

    The repubs have been successful coz they set aside ideological purity for results. The left wing loves to hate on self proclaimed leftist a who shift slightly right far more than right wingers who are way farther to the right which is why you will never drive a auccessful politics movement to achieve the goals you want.

    As bad as Obama has been, he has been better than any reasonable alternative, so until you have a concrete solution for utopia, work for better than the alternatives.

    1. Chris Rogers


      One is not too sure why you cannot comprehend the fact that the leadership of the Democratic Party is corrupt – in a nutshell, do follow the money and where it comes from to fund the organisation, its representatives and its Senators – never mind the Primaries and election of the POTUS.

      Argue as much as you like, but the fact is the decent persons you refer too as ‘Democrats’, and no doubt there are many, do not influence policy one iota.

      As a Brit, you may feel I should not comment on this fact, however, as a actual Socialist and once proud card carrying member of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party – from 16 years of age until 46 years of age – I can assure you that the Labour Party, much like the Democratic Party, has been taken over by career politicians imbued with neoliberalism – indeed, all three major political groupings within the UK are all right-of-centre, given that the Dem’s under Obama are more to the right than Nixon on economic matters, and the Republican’s on the maniac fringe, it will be the Democrats, shall we call them the NuDemocrats, who eventually fullfil Pete Petersens dreams – Perhaps you should view the recently aired Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the USA – the piece on Clinton and NeoLiberalism is informative.

      Anyway, the author is correct, and I’m afraid the facts indicate, your analysis and critique are misjudged or plain wrong.

      Please don’t take this too personally on this occasion, like you I was blind or turned a cheek away from much what was happen to my beloved Labour Party from 1994 until the 2010 General election – I finally left the Party in disgust when its new leader, Ed Milliband, supported the continuation of University Tuition Fees, although at a lower rate than the present administration – also the creeping privatisation of the UK’s NHS began under the Premiership of one Tony Blair, as did the attacks on Social Welfare, particularly in relation to SS for the sick.

      So, given the Dems are captured by vested interests, interests that are opposed to your personal wellbeing, perhaps you too should have a Damascian change of heart – it hurts, but believe me, you’ll feel better by acknowledging the truth.

      1. Synopticist

        You left the labour party in 2010, over tution fees?
        Sorry mate, but that’s wierd as fuck.

        All 3 British parties may be right of centre, thats debatable, but theres no debate about which one of them is the least right wing, not any longer.

        The whole “there’s no difference between the major parties” is bullshit. And it’s always been bullshit. The fucking Koch brothers know it’s bullshit, and they’re richer and smarter than everyone here.

        1. Synopticist

          That’s not to say I don’t think this group are a bunch of whoring, parasite, plutocrat welfare scumbags.

          I just think that thats an accurate way to describe around 50% of democrat leaders, and maybe 95% of republicans.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          “No difference between the major parties” is a straw man of your own construction. Obviously, they have differences in branding, and were the Democrats an actual corporation, they would be said to have once had a great deal of good will on the balance sheet from the New Deal. Also, although the internal factions of each legacy party hate each other, they hate any faction of the other party more.

          However, both legacy parties form a single system, and their duopoly needs to be broken up if there’s to be any hope of policy created with the public good in mind.

          Parties that cannot display adaptability and are unequal to the demands of their time will die, as is right, much as the Whig Party did before the Civil War

        3. Nathanael

          The least right-wing major party in the UK is clear: it’s the Scottish National Party.

          Sadly, y’all in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland can’t vote for it. I have been repeatedly suggesting that the SNP should seize the opportunity and expand outside of Scotland.

    2. different clue

      Are there Dems who want to do the opposite? Really? Are there?

      The Senate is the crucial battlefield for the next little while. So the crucial Dems who “want to do the opposite” are those Dems who hold seats in the Senate. So . . . do any of the Democratic Senators really “want to do the opposite”? If so, which ones? And how badly do they really “want to do the opposite”?

      And forget “doing the opposite”. I’m ready to settle on the far lesser goal for right now of just stopping the Catfood Plan. Are there any Democratic Senators who really want to stop the Catfood Plan? Really and truly? Enough that will actually do whatever is necessary within the Senate to stop it? And how many is “enough”? How few Senators would it take to stop the Catfood Plan if they were willing to stop or destroy the Senate in order to stop and destroy the Catfood Plan? With trillions of dollars of our future SS survival money at stake, it really is worth trying to find out.

    3. Nathanael

      “Yeah some democrats want to cut money from the not-haves to the have all. But, unlike republicans there are Dems who want to do the opposite.”

      Compare the period before the Civil War. The Whigs expelled all the anti-slavery Whigs and became 100% pro-slavery. Shortly thereafter, the Whigs collapsed.

      The Democrats remained “big tent”. They proceeded to break into four (!!) factions in 1860.

      The brand new Republican party, made up of anti-slavery Whigs, radical Free Soilers, and disaffected anti-slavery Democrats, proceeded to win in 1860. This caused the Democratic Party to re-coalsce as the party of Jim Crow.

      Something similar is going to happen here and now. The Republican Party is busily purging all its sane members (as the Whigs did). For now, they’ve been hanging out in the Democratic Party — which has remained an overly large tent. The Republican Party will proceed to collapse. *Someone* will manage to create a “second party” to compete with the Democratic Party, and the rump Democratic Party will redefine itself in opposition to that “second party”.

      I don’t know who’s going to create a “second party” or what it will stand for. It could be a really awful evil party or a really excellent good party.

      1. jonboinAR

        No, it’s hard to be “smart”, that is, informed. What makes American’s so vulnerable to being manipulated is their quite extreme intellectual laziness. I live in an area of predominantly common folk, mostly high school educated, who go into various farming pursuits and plant maintenance. They are mostly all current affairs nearly absolute ignoramuses, by choice. Their information intake is to watch Fox News and believe everything. They share by going on Facebook and posting insulting quips about Obama the socialist Kenyan. But, let me tell you, when we’re watching football they can speak informatively about the formation the offense is in and what plays can be run out of it.

        I believe they’re pretty typical Americans. Somehow they have to be reached, because right now they can’t really tell their blood’s being extracted being’s as they still have their mortgage, their boat, their wide-screen, their four-wheeler, their truck, their precious guns.

        1. athena1

          Boats and 4 wheelers?
          You are kicking it with top 10%ers, I have to surmise. No wonder they’re not exactly clued in.

        2. Nathanael

          Losing their houses due to foreclosure fraud is a pretty good way for them to wake up.

          Losing their jobs might do it, but losing their houses to fraud definitely would.

  7. bmeisen

    Bipartisanship is touted as a universal virtue these days in the US, something along the lines of democracy and free-markets. And it gets this play because the system there denies political minorities formal participation in the executive. The Constitution does not establish parties, so when a POTUS nominates a Republican for a cabinet position the victory is a personal one for the nominee, not formally a political one for her party. Legislative dysfunction, currently on display again, is also a result of cosntitutional failure to formally integrate minorities. In addition the first-past-the-post rules for most federal elections, as well as the absence of effective party discipline mechanisms, give successful candidates too much personal power. This allows groups like the Blue Dogs to corrupt useful partisanship. The alternative is a parliamentary system with proportional representation. Build parties into the constitution, establish a threshold for admission to Congress, allow coalitions to form in which minority parties have specific portfolios. Bipartisanship is a triviality across northern Europe (excluding the UK which has a parliamentary system with first-past-the-post, not proportional, representation.

    1. hunkerdown

      “absence of effective party discipline mechanisms”

      Kayfabe. “We don’t have the votes” is the correct pronunciation for “we don’t want to have the votes”. I think the PPACA legislative process showed that the D Party has fine party discipline when it serves the party’s interests; what is in question is whether the party’s actual interests derive in any meaningful way from the party’s advertising copy, its tradition, or the wishes of the party’s electorate.

      As it stands, elite special interests have a broadly effective veto over the candidates presented for elections and therefore over the issues in public discourse. (A firebrand like first-term Grayson or a feel-good institution like Kucinich occasionally slipping past camouflages that power in plausible deniability.) I don’t think anything short of a national referendum process or the Chinese taking out television satellites for lulz is going to rebalance policy power, and each carries massive costs and grave hazards of its own.

      1. Nathanael

        benisen is correct — a parliamentary system with party-proportional represenation system would help a lot.

        Why? Look at Bepe Grillo. In a parliamentary system with party-proportional representation, you can form a new party overnight, with all new representatives, and get 25% of Parliament. This represents a permanent threat to the elite, one which forces them to get results or be thrown out of power.

        In our system, the elite lie back relaxed, assured that they have bought both parties and that other parties cannot easily arise.

  8. Lafayette


    I made the following point about “centrism“

    Me too, I’d like to make a point about Centrism.

    First of all, it recognizes that capitalism is the Cash-Cow that has brought an acceptable standard-of-living to millions of people across the planet.

    Centrism also unabashedly supports meritocracy, that is, a democratically elected government by people selected according to their merit as representatives of their constituency first and foremost. (Subordinate to any and all personal ambitions.) But also, the same rule applies to those responsible for supplying goods/services to consumers by means of a market economy.

    Secondly, however, it has become painfully obvious – just look at the Gini Index of nations here – that even if consumers are dependent upon a market economy for their well-being the distribution/sharing of the income engendered does not occur fairly and impartially. (Note in the info-graphic that the higher the Gini Coefficient, the worse is Income Disparity.)

    Income Disparity is (probably) America’s greatest challenge, more so because the Gini Index/Coefficient shows it at the very highest of all developed economies.


    This: That even if capitalist market-economies are genuine Cash Cows, we have yet to learn how to milk them effectively and distribute fairly the revenues they produce.

    And how is that accomplished? By taxation as, once again, the Gini Index info-graphic demonstrates. All the European countries indicating a Coefficient about 10/15 percentage points lower than the US have achieve that level by means of governmental Tax ‘n Spend policies.

    And, if the US, has gone upwards in the Gini Coefficient value, it is because Reckless Reagan profoundly changed the Tax Code that brought crashing down the tax-rates on upper income levels.

    Reagan’s purpose was disingenuous. Remember, he got elected by promising to “Get the government off our backs!” What he meant was to reduce income taxation on the cronies who funded his electoral campaign. (See the history of income tax rates here.)


    We need only have the courage to institute highly progressive tax rates in the US, in order to obtain the funds necessary to redress much of our Income Disparity. But, no, increasing tax rates is not a panacea. It will teach an ignorant class of individuals (the plutocrats) two lessons:
    *First that that the “sky is NOT the limit” and that more, more, always more is not the manner in which Social Justice can be brought to America to correct the Social Injustice that presently exists.
    *Secondly, highly progressive taxation takes the incentive out of gaming-the-system by which game-players manipulate a market entirely for personal gain without the slightest concern for the consequences to the rest of us. After all, they are too-big-to-fail, aren’t they … ?


    How many millionaires/billionaires do you know that made their colossal fortunes on a deserted island. None, zip, nada, niente, rien, nichts.

    They all needed a market economy to generate their wealth. And what is the other essential component to a market-economy? We, the consumers … without us, they would not be where they are today.

    Meaning that Social Justice is the mechanism by which government Tax ‘n Spend shares some – not all – of the benefit of a market economy in order to obtain a decent standard of living for all of us.

  9. Middle Seaman

    This post reveals nothing new and also serves parts of the left that still fights Clinton. It’s similar to the Japanese soldier found fighting shadows of WWII in 2000.

    Obama, from day one, is the president nominated, PRed and paid for by Wall Street. If he is a centrist, he stands in the center of WS. The American pretend left has supported Obama from day one and never stopped. They also continued the fight Clinton who raised taxes on the rich and left the country in good shape.

    Similarly to the pretend left, the whole Democratic party has moved towards WS. We are after thoughts. The more lefty wing of the Democrats are now tasked to post insignificant, misleading, unfocused articles as the one we deal with here.

    We know that our political system is mobilized to destroy the safety net. Claiming that Bowles was a Clinton man doesn’t help to fight Obama.

      1. Yves Smith

        Agreed. This is a fine piece. What people don’t like is what it reveals, how deeply committed the Dems are to cutting entitlements. Most people seem desperately to want to believe their bromides (no “unnecessary” cuts, “shared sacrifice” etc.) are merely the equivalent of petting an animal as the needle full of euthanasia chemicals is slipped under its skin. People who seem so smart and nice and caring can’t be that evil, now can they?

        1. Doug Terpstra

          Thanks for this, Yves. The false premises of relentless austerity propaganda are insidious mental quills that pierce the logic circuits and fester.

    1. different clue

      BClinton did leave some “bad shape” legacies for America’s future. He pushed for (and got) NAFTA, American membership in WTO, and MFN for China. These were designed to dismantle millions of jobs in America and ship those jobs to China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, the poorest Latin American countries, Mexico (maybe . . . I don’t have the numbers), etc. Those Free Trade Agreements were the Gift that Keeps on Giving . . . . like syphilis or gonorrhea. Clinton’s FTA gifts also help explain where we are now. And Clinton’s man Bowles was involved in that FTA effort, I believe.

      1. Mark P.

        ‘BClinton did leave some “bad shape” legacies for America’s future.’

        Bill Clinton did far worse than FTAs and NAFTA. Unlike many here, I see no reason why an American passport constitutes an automatic entitlement for anybody to enjoy a standard of living some multiples better than someone as smart and hard-working in China or India.

        What I object to is kleptocracy, and the imposition of systemic fraud and corruption from top to bottom in the U.S. And Bill Clinton, in his way, did more to make that happen than any other figure.

        No politician, no Repuplican or Democrat — not W., nor Reagan, nor even Obama — was and has been more of a slimeball when it came to taking Wall Street’s money and serving WS at the expense of the rest of the country.

        It was Bill Clinton who pushed through the repeal of Glass Steagall and who even used his last day in presidential office to officially pardon Mark Rich, a financial criminal —

      2. damian

        those Clinton adimistrative and legislative actions are the core of the cash flow problems today both for government and the middle class – they gutted the economy and took away the tariff barriers that protected the jobs in return for nothing for their democratic constituency

        clinton is smooth and dangerous

  10. casino implosion

    I’m more inclined to believe that what the masterminds want is to get their hands on the payroll tax income stream.

    Maybe a few Mister Burns-like ideologues here and there would honestly like to destroy SS in order to improve national moral fibre/cow the uppity workers now dependent totally on savings (and thus job security) for retirement preparation.

    But for the most part, I think they just want to siphon off as much from the top as possible, gambling with our retirement money WITH THE IMPLICIT GOVERNMENT BACKSTOP.

    The USG will never let the retirement money of the vast majority of the populous be totally destroyed in whatever bubble Wall Street manages to spin with it. They know they can’t lose.

  11. jo6pac

    Great post, the demodogs died in 72 and have never been seen since. It’s just the party of $$$$$ and will do what its puppet masters want. Main Streets everywhere on the little blue sphere hurling through space are Doomed.

    Great song

  12. Brindle

    The other side of the coin of “fix the debt” Dems is their continued pouring of money into the organizations of state violence; the DOD and Intel agencies.

    —“Offering a military budget designed to head off charges that he’s weak on defense, President Obama on Thursday unveiled a Pentagon spending plan that fails to cut any major procurement programs and calls for spending $36 billion more on the military in 2017 than it will spend this year.

    Though billed as a cumulative cut of $259 billion over the next five years, that reduction is based on previous budget proposals that presumed the military spending would continue to grow as fast as it has over the past decade, when spending more than doubled.
    Total military spending, including $115 billion for the war in Afghanistan and recently-ended conflict in Iraq, totaled $646 billion this year, up from $310 billion in 2001.”—

  13. Jennifer

    Good post, if depressing. I do think are are some Dems that “want to do the right thing” but the institution of the Democratic Party is such that it gets beaten out of them. I think if you had a core of even 10 Dem senators who insisted on certain things you might see the administration respond but they will always cave, that center is just like a whirlpool it always sucks them in. The only hope is to build an alternative model, third-party, to fight for change.

    1. different clue

      Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the “right thing” Dems all plotted a mass defection from the Democratic Party and created themselves a new Party? They could call it the Real Democrat Party as a meaningful insult to the Democratic Party.

      They could put a sign up on every physical building they get for organizing and thing-doing in. That sign could say
      Real Democrat Party. No Catfood Democrats allowed.

      1. Nathanael

        There’s, like, only 2 real Democrats in the US Senate. If that.

        It would make a more meaningful impact in the US House and at the State level, but at that level and below you start getting a lot of very ignorant elected officials — people who are marks, rather than con artists. So they really genuinely think the scum up in the US Senate and in the Oval Office are on their side! Makes it hard to get them to defect. They have to see something really egregious to open their eyes.

  14. briansays

    a democratic member ideally in the senate(since bottling up a bill in committee will be more obvious)today not in 2 years needs to introduce a bill to enact a public option/single payer and repeal the mandate/all parts of obamacare in conflict presented with actuarial $$$ to show the savings to provide a clear alternative to the attack on medicare

    right now it appears no one will stand up to obama who has secured admission to the club for himself and family and no tangible options are being presented as a rallying point

    we are i am afraid beyond simply saying no

  15. Great Society

    Ed Rendell’s managing director as mayor, both Penn grads, was David Cohen. But more than a high level go to guy, David Cohen proved to be much, much more than a pot hole fixer or numbers cruncher. Today, he is a high level EVP at Comcast and is in the middle of whatever CEO Brian Roberts is doing. And political fundraising to the tune of millions for both Democrats, mainly, but never too far from key republicans. And this week, the pillar of the Democratic Party PA money machine threw his money at the current REPUBLICAN GOV, Tom Corbett. Of course, most people who follow politics in the city are neither shocked nor dismayed, but it does illustrate the point that both parties frequently can be indistinguishable when corporate business interests are at stake. I don’t see any denouncing of Mr Cohen from the former mayor/governor/ DNC Chairman.


    “Last month, he and his wife, Rhonda, held a small fund-raiser at their Mount Airy home for Corbett that drew about 30 people, mainly Republicans, but also a few Democrats, and raised about $200,000.

    Cohen praised Corbett that evening as a friend, a “man of integrity,” and a “good public servant,” one attendee said.

    Only 19 months earlier, the Cohen residence was the scene of an event that raised $1.2 million for Obama’s reelection.

    At the time, Obama thanked the Cohens for having been supportive for so many years.

    Few who attended the most recent event were surprised that Cohen is now using his clout for Corbett.

    They said that as the leader of the nation’s biggest cable company, Cohen is a businessman first who recognizes that history has demonstrated that Pennsylvania’s incumbent governors do not often lose reelection.

    “He’s a partisan but pragmatic Democratic,” said one corporate executive in Philadelphia, who attended the fund-raiser but would not speak for attribution.

    A prominent Philadelphia Republican, who also did not speak for attribution, said Cohen is well aware that the cable industry is regulated by state boards whose members are appointed by the governor.

    “Cohen is an extremely loyal guy,” he said. “His first client is Comcast, and that does require him to cross the aisle.”

  16. Ziggy

    Mr. Publius accurately describes America’s true “third party” – the corporate socialist Purple Party comprised of Democratic and Republican leaders representing the interests of the global 1%.

    Main Street America (and the proles in Euro countries) need a bona fide fourth party to represent their interests…

  17. Pokey

    If the people trying to destroy the safety net succeed, it will be their end too.

    If we did not have the remnants of Keynesian economics, the great recession would have made the 30’s look like happy days were there again. With drone technology bringing down the price, even poor people will be able to pool resources and blast those bastards into oblivion.

    This will not end well.

    1. Nathanael

      Well, yeah. I’ve been warning about this for years. As someone who is living pretty comfortably, I would like the elite to have the COMMON SENSE to MAINTAIN the bread and circuses. Instead they seem intent on cutting them.

  18. Fraud Guy- Also

    An excellent summary of this group’s ties to the financial industry.

    Given the extensiveness of the ties, it is not surprising that they missed some significant ones:

    Judd Gregg:
    In addition to the financial ties listed, he is currently a senior advisor to New Mountain Capital, a private equity firm.

    Antonio R. Villaraigosa :
    Subsequent to his time as CA assembly speaker, he worked for a number of years in the private equity operation of Ron Burkle, supermarket magnate and Bill Clinton’s best friend. Interestingly, this part of career does not appear in his Wikipedia entry, though you can verify it by putting Villaraigosa’s name and “Yucaipa” (Burkle’s investment firm) into Google together.

  19. rob

    This is such an important topic.
    It is easy to explain away the ignorance and backwardness of the republican party.all one has to do is talk to a republican to see how much they don’t know.all the false information they think they know.Look at the tea partiers and the libertarians, who think they are not really supporting the republican establishment.There are those who believe in the bible first, the republican party second…No doubt they have no issue with believing in myths.There are those who think the military actually protect this country.and see the republicans as the friends of the military and therefor america,while they tend to paint the democrats as the unpatriotic party.These people are also easy to see as ignorant. Then there is the wing of the republican party who think business is what makes america strong. these are another fascist wing to the republicans.also easy to see for what they are.corporateist.But at least all those people are honest in their unknowing.They are what they profess themselves to be. I don’t like their politics,but…They are just one segment of the whole population,that needs to be “fixed”.

    But the democratic party, that is worse.It is worse because they “pretend” to be is also worse because a whole other segment of society believe in them.Look at the blue states.I know so many people who are generally well informed about so much, but really, they just don’t seem to understand that any great con has players on the inside and the outside.And for reasons I don’t understand, they continually “fall back” to their designated assumption that the “democrats”, are diferent than the republicans.Or that they are “trying”, to be different.No matter how many times, how many years, the dem party proves itself to be the same as the republican party.Especially considering the wall st/money connections.So many of these people are sincerely meaning to be proactive,progressive and the like.but….. and that is a big but….
    but, they support the likes of hillary al…. all the regulars who really don’t offer anything different and capitulate every chance they get.These people usually feel superior to those rubes in the red states, but really the blue states are filled with rubes as well.Just higher paid ones,generally.This complacency is really the main obstacle to real long as people believe in the two party trap, there will never be a way to do anything.
    And those with an actual clue will never be invited to the dance.

    1. Nathanael

      People as a whole won’t realize (or care!) that the Democrats are corrupt *until* the Republican Party is completely eliminated as a political force. In the 1850s, the Whigs had to implode before the anti-slavery forces abandoned the Democrats.

      This is due to Duverger’s Law. Which is due to our stupid first-past-the-post electoral system. Too few people understand this.

  20. Bridget

    “One last word and then I’ll close. Both parties want to starve the beast — underfund government so drastically that it can’t function alone.”

    I’d pegged the Democrats’ support for the extension of the vast majority of the Bush tax cuts to pandering. I don’t grant them the benefit of believing that they actually grasp the long term consequences. They did indeed well and truly starve the beast.

    1. different clue

      Well, Obama knew what he was doing when he kept seeking extensions of the Bush tax cuts. He was working to starve the government revenue stream enough to extort his long-sought cuts to SS/Mcare/Mcaide.

  21. Hugh

    The construction of our present kleptocracy began 35 years ago with the Democratic President Jimmy Carter. Carter’s Fed chairman Paul Volcker wrung inflation out of the economy with his high interest rate policy. He set the standard for Fed policy ever since treating any increase in wages to workers as inherently inflationary. This policy effectively has transferred 35 years of productivity gains to the rich while keeping real wages flat throughout the period. Carter was also responsible for the following:

    1978 Airline Deregulation Act deregulating the airlines

    1978 Civil Service Reform Act set up the Federal Labor Relations Authority to oversee collective bargaining with federal workers. It was this entity which Reagan used to decertify Patco in 1981

    1980 The Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act repealed usury limits on what banks could charge in interest

    Motor Carrier Act of 1980: deregulated trucking

    It has also been noted many times that wealth inequality grew faster under the Democrats Clinton and Obama than their respective predecessors Reagan/Bush I and Dubya. And of course, the deregulation of derivatives and repeal of Glass-Steagall happened under Clinton. Also in 1993, the CFTC created the rule which allowed big non-commercial players like Goldman-Sachs into speculating in the oil futures market.

    I would say that Democrats are not turncoats. They are simply finding it harder or just not caring as much to hide their blatant anti-99% neoliberal corporatism.

    Someone asked upthread how many Senators would be necessary to bring the Senate to a stop. I would think it would take only about 4-6. The Senate dispenses with its own rules most of the time and is run using unanimous consent agreements meaning that any Senator can scuttle these with a simple no. But the Senator has to be present to voice his/her objection. Hence the 4-6 number. You would need 4 Senators in the Senate chamber for 6 hours at a stretch or 6 for 4 hours to give 24 hour coverage.

    I remember back in September 2006 when Harry Reid, all warm and neocon fuzzy, worked hand in glove with the Republicans to get Bush’s infamous Military Commissions Act (containing immunity for torturers to boot) through the Senate before the upcoming elections. As he said,

    “But I also say this: I think we could work something out if we can get to the bill. When we start late in the session like this, any one Senator weighs about 1,000 pounds because any Senator can stop anything they want. So we have to make sure we can get to this. It takes all 100 Senators to agree that is the case.”

    Senators also have numerous committee assignments and of course spend a lot of time fundraising so few are actually on the floor of the Senate at any given time. So another tactic would be to suggest the absence of a quorum pretty much all the time.

    There are also points of order, roll call votes on everything, forcing filibusters to actually happen. The Atlantic just reported that the Senate had not passed a major piece of new legislation in 951 days ( and that’s without the use of anything I have described.

    That so-called liberal Senators like Bernie Sanders and a few others have not used these tactics is pretty clear evidence that there are zero progressive voices in the Senate. Sanders in particular is well known in Washington as a serial folder.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Bernie Sanders is a token, Potemkin Socialist, a facade without depth or substance, who plays his scripted rolelike all the thespians in Wall Street’s Senate. I’m not holding my breath for Warren either, since she’s now become a star fundraiser.

      Thanks for clarifying Carter’s record too. His complicity in the unraveling of the New Deal is mostly hidden behind his earnest peanut-farmer Christianity and his later good works with The Carter Center: anti-poverty programs such as Habitat for Humanity, prison reform, elections transparency, renunciation of the Bush doctrine, and refreshing candor on the nonexistent Palestinian peace process. But apart from his inexcusable licensing of usury, I still want to think that, unlike Obama’s Chicagoan cunning, Carter’s groundwork for Wall Street’s coup was mostly the machinations of shrewd malefactors who exploited his naïveté. His recent silence on Obama’s descent into military fascism is disappointing, but perhaps he’s earned a respectable retirement.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        I still want to think that, unlike Obama’s Chicagoan cunning, Carter’s groundwork for Wall Street’s coup was mostly the machinations of shrewd malefactors who exploited his naïveté.

        Ditto, and ditto in thanks to Hugh for pointing out Carter’s darker accomplishments. If he was indeed anything other than a dupe, he is a truly masterful actor.

        1. sleepy

          I am 62 yr. old and don’t recall a time of such economic despair and hopelessness about the future.

          Things such as the open acceptance of torture and government murder, the triumph of neoliberalism, the slashing of social security and medicare, the shredding of civil liberties–these were things that few politicians embraced openly 30 years ago.

          But now . . . . those things are all in the realm of conventional wisdom–bipartisan, and serious.

          I used to think things were cyclical, that some flicker of reason would reassert itself after a 20 or 30 year run of evil. I don’t really believe that anymore. Evil has been institutionalized more solidly than ever.

          The political landscape and rhetoric has gone down the rabbit hole, and I don’t think there’s much escaping it.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            used to think things were cyclical

            We are in somewhat of a race between what ends first, the cycle or the species.

          2. Nathanael

            sleepy: things are mostly cyclical — but the cycles are very long (and not of fixed duration).

            (And we can’t afford to go through the cycle we’re inducing with global warming. That cycle involves a mass extinction inlcuding the extinction of humans. Yeah, life on Earth will recover, just as it did after the Permian extinction, but humans won’t be there to observe it.)

            Anyway, this particular cycle with regard to violent malfeasance by the elites is a very long cycle. The period of violent warlords replacing one another can run for upwards of 90 years, possibly for hundreds of years. The periods of brutal dictatorship are rarely longer than 50 years at a time. After the collapse of one democracy, countries have to run through at least one of each before getting to another period of democracy.

          3. Nathanael

            I should say, countries *usually* have to run through at least one of each. It *can* be avoided.

    2. different clue

      If 4-6 Senators is what it would take, does anyone have any guesses as to who those 4-6 Senators might be? Any thoughts on how to pressure the “28 DemSenators for Social Security” enough to get 4-6 sincere ones to reveal themselves?

      The only “pressure” I can think of is to keep warning DemSenators and other Dem officeholders and party operators that we will never vote/give/call/anything Democratic ever again if SS/Mcare/Mcaide are so much as even mentioned in any legislation in any way. That won’t affect any DemSenators who are auditioning for private money after leaving office. It might affect any DemSenators who are psychologically invested in their “record” and their “legacy” and their “image”.

    3. Nathanael

      “The construction of our present kleptocracy began 35 years ago with the Democratic President Jimmy Carter…”

      No. If you want a starting date, look at the Kennedy tax cuts for the superrich. There’s been a lot of people to blame since then. The irreversible changes were made under Reagan, who cut taxes on the superrich so much that they were able to get rich enough to buy the government.

  22. Brooklin Bridge

    /ˈpliəˌnæzəm/ Show Spelled [plee-uh-naz-uhm] Show IPA
    the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea; redundancy, Vichy-Democrat.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Agree. I think the post is excellent (in case I implied something else). It brings into stark relief just why Vichy-Democrat is now a redundant term.

        1. different clue

          Vichy Democrat isn’t redundant to those who haven’t heard it before, or who haven’t paid proper attention. It can be a useful term of abuse and discredit.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            I was making a point which struck me as I read the above post; Democrats are a conniving, duplicitous, back stabbing, treasonous bunch of treacherous traitors, but I will continue to use the term Vichy-Democrat or Vichy Democrat as it is so expressive even if it IS redundant.

        2. Yves Smith

          I personally like Vichy Left, and I think they are even more dangerous.

          Vichy Left is folks like Yglesias and Klein, who pretend to be lefties are are really Democratic party hacks. They tell you why the Dems are morally superior but nevertheless have no choice other than to do very ugly things to the people they are supposed to represent. Or the alternative formulation, all those policies that are destructive to the middle class are really good for you. We are supposed to pretend that the doses of Drano that we are all being asked to swallow are really cod liver oil.

  23. rotter

    “As the poll above makes very clear, there’s also a widely-agreed center position among the rest of us — keep your stinking hands off of our last protection against poverty”

    I agree with that statement and I agree the polls are correct but increasingly the reality for Social Security Beneficiaries is not the threat of poverty – they are already poor, it is “keep your stinking hands off the only thing standing between us and total, absolute-not-relavtive destitution”

    1. Nathanael

      The proles will tolerate a lot, but take away their bread, and then you have trouble on your hands.

      I do not know how we got such an unbelievably stupid and short-sighted elite. Veblen discusses this question. Modern research into psychopathy appears to shed some light as well.

  24. Ep3

    I was thinking about how gutting entitlements (yes, I am entitled to these as I paid into them and I live in this country too) would help the debt. And the conclusion I have hasn’t been mentioned at all in many of the articles I have read. Maybe it’s just implied and I am dumb (which of course I am dumb because I am not wealthy. If I was smart, I would be wealthy. And I don’t work hard either.). But what I see is that for every dollar we are saying will be cut, I am seeing two dollars. Say that we cut checks to granny by $100. Well, that means that there’s another $100 that doesn’t get added to the payback that is owed to SS by the rest of the govt. So the current debt is cut and the future debt is cut. All those persons that took money from the SS trust fund and spent it on tax cuts and oil wars don’t have to pay it back. And, now they have $100 immediately to spend on tax cuts. Its like double dip stealing.
    Does this make sense to others?

    1. different clue

      Well, that’s why those persons and their Obama and their Catfood Democrats want to cut Social Security. So they can keep the money they have provisionally pre-stolen from the Trust Fund.

      That’s why Joshua Mica Marshall called the “Greenspan Commission SS rescue of 1983” a “straight-up two-step con” back when he cared about agitating for protecting Social Security. It later became clear that he only wanted to protect Social Security from rePUBlican privatization in order for the Catfood Democrats to be the ones to attrit and destroy it instead.

      1. sleepy

        Do those cuts even have an effect on the budget?

        The special treasury notes owed to the ss fund are carried on one side of the government ledger book as a government asset.

        On another side of that book, those notes are carried as a liability.

        Seems to me that they cancel each other out. If the liability side of the ledger reneges, the asset side decreases–less in liabilities, but also less in assets. Where are the “savings”?

  25. different clue

    Handy labels can help people organize their thinking in shorthand ways. Having a reasonably accurate label for the enemy can help in knowing who the enemy is and who may rightly be considered among enemy ranks.

    I will suggest a couple of labels. People can take them for free and use them if they are useful. People can ignore them to death if they are useless. The right labels can help us sort Democratic officeholders into friendlies (if any) , neutrals, and hostiles.
    If there are any DemSenators ready to burn the Senate all the way down to the ground in order to protect Social Security and Medicare, we could call them “Franklin Democrats” ( as in Franklin Roosevelt, get it?) The Democrats who want to destroy Social Security could be called Catfood Democrats in honor of their beloved Catfood Plan. Their Grand Catfood Bargain.

    “Franklin Democrats” versus “Catfood Democrats”. If anyone likes it, feel free to use it.

    Also, if we could figure out how to destroy Obama’s personal visible image and dignity enough that he gets too smelly for “nice” people to stand next to, we really should do that. He threatens our survival. Any weapon is fair if it works. So here’s a gentle little meme. “Obama is not really a Black person. He just plays one on TV.”

    If this gets me banned here, then so be it. The question for me is . . . is Social Security worth saving, or isn’t it? If it is, then destroying its enemies by Any Means Necessary is perfectly proper.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      “Any weapon is fair if it works.” Actually, no. Leaving morality aside, mis- and disinformation are weapons we shouldn’t use. The structure of bullshit and lies that our political class manages on behalf of our ruling class is extremely expensive. We can’t compete on that ground because we don’t have the budget. And if we competed that way and won, we would have become what we oppose. Meet the new boss!

      Adding… On consideration, I deleted the Hillbuzz material. I read through it, and the only authenticating link I could find is a link to Wayne Madsen. Come on.

          1. different clue

            I first read this stuff from a bitter commenter at The Crawdad Hole. I did not know that Marsden was involved. In fact, did Mr. Hillbuzz get it from Mr. Marsden or did Mr. Marsden get it from Mr. Hillbuzz? It had read to me as if Mr. Hillbuzz ( a “Kevin DuJan” actually) was speaking from knowledge more polysourced than just from Marsden.

            It brings up an interesting question, though. Long time ago, Colonel (Retired) Pat Lang re-ran an editorial by Charles Krauthammer. His readership basically said “hey wait a minute, we thought you don’t like neo-conservatives?”
            And he said back: “this is a lesson in assessing the data or the information-bits irrespective of the source. If the information seems potentially interesting or useful, one poly-crosschecks it through other unrelated sources and channels. One doesn’t pre-discount it based on the source it came from.” And he did rise to become head of Military Intelligence for the Middle East, so he does know the Intelligence bussiness. (Those quotes are totally paraphrases . . . )

            I know little of Marsden, actually. Is he considered to be a right wing or very right wing tinfoiler?

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              Dunno. I don’t spend a lot of time doing foil calibration. I’m all for cross-checks, but I didn’t see a lot of them in the links I deleted. I’ve also been deked after doing crosschecks, so that’s not sufficient. There has to be some sort of evidence that can be independently checked. That stuff wasn’t even single sourced. If one is going to do oppo, do oppo; get the proof, nail the story.

    2. Emperor Wang of Market Mongo

      Allow your Emperor to use your “Occam’s Razor” and point out that you can merely leave it to republicans to paint your president as a Gay Bath House Socialist from Kenya.

      This gives everyone else plausible deniability if caught laughing their Royal Jewels off.

        1. Emperor Wang of Market Mongo

          True,dat. I guess that still leaves you people with no one to vote for.

          But that’s your planet not mine. We just watch Earth here on prime time Mongo TV. Ratings are off the chart!

  26. Jimbo

    The author would like everyone to close their eyes and ignore the facts and arithmetic of our unsustainable trajectory.

    1. Yves Smith

      You have to do better than bumper-sticker talking points. The government debt is not “unsustainable” if that’s your claim. We’ve debunked that here repeatedly. You need to provide EVIDENCE, as opposed to bromides, to the contrary. You’ve either been conned or are running a con.

      Please read these, for starters, then we might have an intelligent conversation:

      And that’s before we get to the fact that the “deficit” discussion tries to analogize government spending to a household, when (aside from the fiat currency issue meaning the US will never have a problem paying back debt issued in its own currency, although it can produce too much inflation) is that government accounting is on a cash flow basis, not an income statement v. balance sheet basis. That is, even if you accepted that bad analogy (which we don’t) the picture is very different than the hysterics would lead you to believe. For instance, everyone hyperventilates about debt and doesn’t even bother netting out government financial assets, which are about 15% of GDP. Hello??? And that is before you get to all the other assets the government owns….

        1. Emperor Wang of Market Mongo

          hmm. Just re-read that acronym. Needs spelling out for clarity. United States Asset Backed Security.

  27. John Yard

    I am not suprised that Antonio Villaraigosa is involved with Fix the Debt. Villaraigosa term as mayor of LA is ending, and very few are sorry to see him go. After being mayor for 8 years, it was revealed that the city is 30 years in arrears for structural repairs. The problem is deeper than the 2008 crash, LA has 7% fewer jobs than in 1990, losing 50% of its manufacturing jobs.
    Villaraigosa is an ethnic oriented politician with no solutions. Mr. Fix the Debt was a player in creating LA’s
    financial problems , a rich irony for thise in the know.

  28. Progressive Humanist

    Where is the carrot and stick dynamic with these people?

    Blinded by baksheesh money, pampered by a public that has mostly given up any notion of power to restrain them.

    Can application of some kind of persistent localized irritating public pressure that doesn’t go easily away dissuade them?

  29. mac

    The real truth is that the folks we elect are not to be trusted and only work for their own benefit.
    It matters not what party they are either crooks or just dummies.

  30. kris

    That’s why I love Naked Cap.
    Pure bonafide left wing, non violent.
    Black is black, white is white, no shades.

    As a straight shooter conservative right winger, I’m telling you: I love you guys.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      You have no idea how much that means to us, kris … no, really. Rarely does such deep and thoughtful analysis penetrate our simplistic, binary, hive consciousness here. Thanks so much.

  31. Finnucane

    This post really cuts deep: our rentier masters are raping us, and are using the party of FDR to do it. What really galls, though, is the video thing. Not because it is corny and embarrasing like pictures from junior prom looked at 15 years later (though it is that), but because the paper-thin celebs probably really meant it, and because, as G.P. points out, the whole vid was done for free because some benighted souls or souls thought it the right thing to do. Like Scarlet Johanson or John Legend, you and I really believed that Obama was a breath of fresh air. Not perfect, no, but not Bush, and at least smart, and sane, and decent, and FOR US.

    Turns out, BHO made us all, Scarlet, Mr. Legend, and anonymous slob me look like assholes. I want my damn money back! BHO is the most cynical, most manipulative politician since George Wallace, and he plays on a much larger stage, and he specializes is bamboozling people with commas and stings of letters after their names. I guess that makes him a winner in modern parlance, but god, I really hate him.

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