The Skunk Party Manifesto

The best political system that money can buy is doing a great job for its customers and a lousy job for the rest of us.

Most Americans do not realize that they are on the losing end of a 40-year war against them. On August 23, 1971, former Nixon Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell circulated what came to be known as the Powell memo. It set forth a detailed program for reshaping American institutions and values to favor the interests of corporations over those of ordinary citizens. The success of this initiative has been so complete that it has not only rolled back many of the bulwarks created by the New Deal and the Great Society, but it is also in the process of pauperizing ordinary workers in order to increase record business profits even further. The fact that the campaign has also produced rampant political dysfunction, curtailed civil liberties and helped cement an out-of-control surveillance state is of perilous little concern to powerful elites as long as their plutocratic land-grab continues.

One of the perverse accomplishments of this campaign has been to place all major branches of government in thrall to the capitalist classes rather than the popular will. Both major parties are in broad agreement on policies that are hostile to the public, such as deficit reduction when unemployment is still high, preserving a higher education system that turns increasing numbers of young people into compliant debt slaves, “reforming” as in cutting Social Security and Medicare while preserving a bloated military, and damaging local water supplies via fracking. A “law and economics” movement and aggressive targeting of elected court positions has produced an increasingly pro-business judiciary that has issued rulings that our forefathers would consider absurd, such as treating corporations as having Constitutional rights. Regulators are at best ideologically captured and at worst responsive to what amount to bribes via the “revolving door” of trading on their contacts and knowledge once they leave government service. And a lapdog media for the most part plays the role of Dr. Pangloss, celebrating this march towards neofeudalism as inevitable, even virtuous, and relegating critics to the fringes.

Promoters of this new order reassured the public that regulations were just unnecessary speed bumps that held back commerce, “innovation,” and progress. We’ve seen what self-serving bunk that has turned out to be. Efficient markets produce meager returns. Businesses understood that less regulation would produce higher profits, via lower transparency and more concentration, which means more pricing power. And they’ve increasingly used those profits to extract not just more waivers but also more direct subsidies from government at all levels.

The time has come for ordinary people to demand to be heard. We are hardly alone in calling for radical change; the recent weeks alone have seen robust debate about the need for revolution. Not surprisingly, pundits and spokesmen of the Vichy Left have worked hard to stuff that impulse back into a box. But the irony is that these “revolutionary” views aren’t even radical. They enjoy considerable, often majority, popular support. They just happen to be inconvenient for our incompetent elites and looting plutocrats.

Thus we are not trying to found a political movement as much as galvanize and focus popular views that the policy elites have marginalized and describe concrete solutions. Look at the anger expressed over long-standing, long-ignored grievances when ordinary folks get a platform for expressing their views. The runaway success of “#askJPM” shows how citizens are mad as hell about predatory banking; the humor and vitriol of the questions stands in stark contrast with the media finger wagging at JP Morgan. Yet in the face of  overwhelming evidence of well-warranted outrage at corporate and government misconduct, the experts prefer to talk about the PR bungling.

Since humor seems to be the only way to get forbidden topics, like the continued criminality of major banks, into official discourse, we encourage you to become a card-carrying member of the Skunk Party!

Why Skunks?

Unlike “liberal,” “libertarian,” “progressive,” and pretty much every label used in politics these days, everyone knows what a skunk is

Predators are afraid of skunks and treat them with respect

Skunks could care less what you think about them

Skunks have nice personalities and go about their business unless they are threatened. Even then, they give plenty of warning before they attack. Skunks fight fairly

Skunks have no interest in having private jets, sitting on public company boards, getting seats in the skybox, seeing their name in the newspapers (or buying them), owning lots of houses, or collecting art

Skunks are cute and telegenic, which is important in American politics

Skunks are winners! As Muriel Siebert said, “Never get in a pissing match with a skunk.”

Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias will not want to be called skunks

What are the Big Problems the Skunk Party Needs to Address?

Um, aside from the fact that our system is rotten to the core, not that much.

Government at all levels is failing. It has met industrial and post-industrial capitalism and lost. Once upon a time, special interest groups and the wealthy merely helped themselves to biggest part of the cake. They’ve now decided to grab it all for themselves, and get ordinary people to do their dishes for them too. For instance, we had a global financial crisis that did so much damage to the economy that Andrew Haldane of the Bank of England prepared an analysis that showed that even nationalizing the big international banks wouldn’t begin to pay for all the damage they do on a regular basis. So what did we get? Dodd-Frank, which was weak tea that is being further watered down in lobbyist-dominated rule-making, plus the continuing bailouts known as ZIRP and QE.

And government isn’t just failing in terms of making a credible pretense of serving its nominal constituents. It is also failing on the level of basic competence. Forty years of demonization, attacks on regulators’ budgets and authority, and letting corporate-funded think tanks do most of what passes for policy study will do that. The Federal government came close to defaulting because a fringe movement decided to use it as a way to grandstand. Obama let health insurance lobbyists write Obamacare. While the media has been agog with fact that it’s hard to build a website that can navigate a Rube Goldberg machine, the bigger failure, which is being revealed as the program rolls out, is how much of a looting opportunity industry incumbents designed it to be.

Anglo-Saxon finance-driven capitalism is failing. Capitalism comes in many forms, but this one is well on its way to being a bungled experiment. Adam Smith would be among the first to disown it, for he was vigorously opposed to monopolists, rentiers, and businessmen who conspired to suppress wage levels.

If you have a system that requires that people sell their labor as a condition of survival, yet fails to provide enough opportunities to sell labor to go around, you have conditions for revolt. In the past, the solution was deficit spending to make up for capitalists’ reluctance to moderate their profit-taking and invest enough to assure sufficient job employment, along with social safety nets to buffer the impact of business cycles. The solution that is now being put in place is authoritarianism and militarized policing so as to make revolt impossible. But we know from the USSR that authoritarian systems are too costly in terms of the amount of resources and effort that go to the surveillance and control apparatus. They eventually collapse. But what passes for our elites are either in denial or have convinced themselves it won’t happen on their watch.

Corruption is the biggest single problem. Until we tackle that, frontally, it will be impossible to get any good solutions or even viable interim measures to the long and growing list of problems we face. Conduct that would have been seen as reprehensible 40 years ago, like foreclosing on people who were current on their mortgages, or selling drugs even when the company knows they increase heart heart attack and stroke risk enough to be fatal for a meaningful percentage of patients, barely stirs a raised eyebrow today.

Solutions need to be commensurate to the size of the problem. It’s insane to treat gunshot wounds with Band-Aids, yet that happens every day in Washington as well as London and Brussels. Timid, incremental fixes to rotten systems won’t save them.

Political parties are not the good conduits for fundamental reform. While we call this effort the Skunk Party out of convenience, this endeavor does not aspire to be a political party.

The US has managed to have a number of major reform efforts that achieved lasting change when they were applying pressure to the two-party system. The Populists, the early 20th century Progressives, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the Ralph Nader-led consumer product safety effort, and gay activism all achieved significant results. Some of these initiatives (labor and civil rights) were met with considerable violence, more from private parties than the state. But these movements became toothless when they joined a major party. The Populists were defanged after 1896. Labor was much more effective when it was a threat outside the party system than after it joined the Democrats. By contrast, gay rights activists, even though aligned with the Democrats, continue to be effective because they operate a bloc willing to withhold support if its demands aren’t met.

We may be past the point where similar large-scale change can be achieved without more revolutionary methods. Yet the USSR collapsed with so little in the way of protests that the CIA didn’t see it coming. But it is also worth keeping in mind that revolutions, as in the kind that completely tear down the existing governing apparatus, do not have a great track record. If you look at France, it took nearly 100 years, till the Third Republic, for the democratic government form of government to become durable. But the flip side is when you consider the American post-Civil War sharecropper system, which used debt to reduce nominally free white and black farmers to de facto slaves, revolution (had it been possible in a rural setting) might well have been a better alternative than enduring generation-spanning oppression.

The effort to convert Americans from citizens into economic agents has been almost entirely to their detriment. Over time, the media has come more and more to describe Americans as “consumers” rather than “citizens.” That’s no accident. We’ve been reduced to being economic agents, but “consumer” emphasizes the supposedly fun part, shopping, and hides the not-so-nice part, selling your labor. And not only is the “one dollar equals one vote” model of economic power contrary to the “one person has one vote” model of democracy, designing a society first and foremost around economic considerations is detrimental in other respects.

Citizens are most effective when they are part of stable communities, since they then have a vested interest in the long-term consequences of political decisions. Having at least a significant number of residents be well rooted also means the investment of time to participate in civic affairs is not unduly costly relative to the potential benefits. Separately, virtually every study of mental health shows that people with large and diverse social networks (as in they participate in multiple social groups, as opposed to are deeply involved in only one) are happier, more resilient psychologically, and live longer. And bad health effects aren’t limited to middle and lower income people. High levels of income inequality take a toll on the health of all, even the rich.

By contrast, the economists’ ideal of “labor market flexibility” treats humans as corporate cannon fodder. And the results actually haven’t worked out so well in economic terms. Companies see workers as disposable. Despite pundit hand-wringing over the need for a highly-skilled work force, all education can do is confer general skills. Much of the knowledge that employers value comes via on-the-job training. Yet with job tenures short (between four and five years), most corporations simply aren’t willing to train new hires. Short job tenures also means workers can expect to suffer more unemployment over their lifetime. This impedes their ability to save for emergencies and retirement, buy a home (how can you have any confidence of being able to make mortgage payments?), and support a family. And de facto longer work weeks due to the requirement that many employees be on call, plus greater odds of needing to move in search of employment means less civic engagement and shallower social ties generally. But that sort of instability and frequent interruption of work, ironically, also hurts producers themselves, since it reduces consumer incomes and makes them rationally more cautious about making significant economic and personal commitments.

Skunk Party Principles

So far, we’ve focus on what isn’t working. What principles do we need to bear in mind going forward?

Concentrations of power lead to abuse. Lord Acton was right: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Unfortunately, capitalism tends to produce concentrated economic power, and industrial and post-industrial capitalism, even more so. America’s founding fathers understood that danger and devised a system of checks and balances to limit the power of each branch of government. But those protections have weakened considerably as a result of sustained, 40-year assault.

The fact that wealthy interests can subvert democracy therefore means that:

More egalitarian societies are less corrupt. They also produce better social outcomes: less crime, longer lifespans, lower levels of mental illnesses, higher attainment in mathematical competence and literacy, lower incidence of childhood deaths and teen pregnancies. Highly unequal societies are bad even for the rich. Yet they are perversely attached to them. Even Emperor Napoleon recognized the value of making sure that capable people from modest backgrounds could attend the most elite educational institutions and assume influential positions. Our wealthy, by contrast, are happy to squander talent and waste lives in order to preserve their privileged positions.

Corporations need to be put in their place, and that means well behind natural persons. Corporations are creatures of the legal system. They cannot and should not take priority over humans. The bizarre notion that corporations have free speech rights is a sign of judicial insanity and corruption. Similarly, the preference for prosecuting companies, as opposed to their executives and officers, perpetuates bad conduct by making sure that no one who is influential is held accountable.

It thus follows that effective regulations and anti-trust enforcement are essential. Saying that because regulation is hard and is not often done well and therefore we shouldn’t do it is logically equivalent to saying bringing up children is hard and often not done well and therefore we shouldn’t do it. Feral children are dangers to themselves and society and feral corporations, even more so.

Citizenship creates responsibilities as well as rights. Corporations and the wealthy curiously manage to get the advantages of being “persons” without having corresponding duties, like paying their fair share in taxes.

Initial Skunk Party Policy Ideas

We are past the point where passive resignation or gnashing of teeth will do.

Our motto is “It’s time to clear the room.”

Here are some ideas for how to accomplish that.

Treat corporate welfare queens like government enterprises. Companies whose profits depend significantly or entirely on government subsidies are not private enterprises. They should therefore be held to much higher standards of accountability to society at large than businesses who really do make their own way.

At one extreme are the large financial services companies. The big banks depend on the interbank payments system, Fedwire, which would not be viable without Fed backstopping. FDIC deposit insurance is widely recognized as being underpriced and hence is another subsidy. Over 90% of mortgages originated in the US are government guaranteed (and that’s before considering the huge “get out of jail almost free” card of Federal/49 State mortgage settlement, which got major banks out of chain of title liability that almost certainly exceeded their collective net worth). These corporations need to be regulated like public utilities.

While large financial services companies are an obvious example of firms that could not exist in their current form if government props were removed, many other businesses are also heavy users of the taxpayer drip-feed, such as Big Pharma, by virtue of substantial government funding of research and development, and companies in extraction industries that operate on public lands.

The degree of accountability to the public would be determined by a dependency ratio, which would measure how much of their pre-tax profits resulted from government subsidies (note since this will vary over time, the notion is not to come up with precise measurement but a good approximation)**. For instance, Walmart, McDonalds, and many other national retail businesses pay workers less than than a living wage. This underpayment imposes a cost on taxpayers because those employees make use of food stamps, Medicare and other social safety nets to make up the difference. The difference between wages paid versus living wages, plus other subsidies (like state and local tax breaks for building new stores in particular locations) would then be totaled (for other businesses, these also include government-funded R&D, like the value of National Institutes of Health-funded research to drug companies).

To illustrate how this could work in practice: A company that received more than 20% of its pre-tax profits in these subsidies would have compensation to its employees and board members capped at 50 times the full-time equivalent of lowest-paid worker pay (including contractors), including deferred compensation and stock options. Companies who received more than 10% of their pre-tax profits through subsidies also be required to have labor and community representatives as board members in same ratio. Companies over the 20% subsidy level would be required to cut managerial and executive pay and benefits in the same proportion as any cuts imposed on low-level workers. These companies would also be prohibited from increasing managerial or executive pay in any year during or immediately after a headcount reduction.

Note this approach also has the advantage of providing good incentives. Executives, particularly of large companies, are keen to pay themselves well. Docking their pay because they are unduly on the taxpayer dime will induce them to change their operations so as to reduce reliance on public support.

End looting. Looting takes multiple forms. The best known is when companies that enjoy government support borrow too much money, take a lot of risk, pay executives and insiders too much, and sooner or later go bankrupt. The “treat welfare queens like public enterprises” effort should go a long way in addressing this problem. But looting has also depended on enablers, like compliant accountants and lawyers and weak boards. We need more aggressive prosecution of executives and employees who engage in predatory practices, but we also need to prosecute outside advisors who provide their liability shield.**

Similarly, the legal profession has actively participated in abuse of the legal process in foreclosures. Partners in foreclosure mills across the country have yet to be disbarred. Complaint judges have also played a role here, yet a comparatively simple remedy, that of New York’s courts requiring that attorneys certify the validity of documents submitted to them, has gone a long way in curbing this abuse. But that measure stands in sharp contrast to bank-friendly behavior in the rest of the county, and shows the need for a concerted effort to take back the judiciary from business.

An even more pernicious form of looting is taking place via privatization or reckless use of formerly public resources. This is the modern analogue to the enclosure movement, a key step in the early days of capitalism in which peasants were deprived of the means of producing for themselves. Land that had been commonly held was pasture used for grazing. But when those fields were enclosed and deeded over to well-placed aristocrats, court placeholders, or members of the emerging merchant class, most families could not longer keep their livestock, which were critical to their livelihood. Game laws were passed around the same time restricting their right to hunt. Dispossessed farmers moved in droves to cities.

Today, we see a similar enclosure movement in the field of intellectual property, with laws being used in unheard of ways to pauperize the middle class: efforts to patent genes,*** creative extensions of drug patents through inconsequential changes (like reformulation for 24 hours dosage or clinical trials to validate additional uses), and governments allowing price-gouging on publicly-conferred communications monopolies and oligopolies (American broadband services are as a result both low in quality and high in cost relative to not only advanced but even developing economies). We also see other irresponsible use of scarce resources, such as the destruction of potable water via fracking.

Public resources need to be managed with the public first in mind, not private profit. For instance, net neutrality is both in the interest of the general public and promotes innovation; the folks that are against it, naturally, are oligopolist wannabes. Plant and animal varieties were similarly not privately owned; you could own a particular Thoroughbred or breed a new plant variety and profit from its direct “output” in terms of race winnings and progeny (stud fees, sales of new seeds). But the agriculture privateers want to go well beyond that. The idea that GMO technology can be used by companies privatize what used to be agricultural commons is not simply an aggressive form of rent extraction, but an uncontrolled health experiment on performed on the public at large without its informed consent. GMO labeling should be an uncontroversial means to let individuals opt out. Letting private companies take and hold a choke point on a resource critical to the public as significant as grains and other agricultural staples is guaranteed to lead to extortion. It needs to be restricted for that reason alone.

Pay for clean government. You get what you pay for. The result of undercompensating government employees in critical positions is crappy government. The reason we have corrupt government is we haven’t been willing to pay for better. As we wrote earlier:

If you pay cops terribly, you’ll get cops who take bribes. If you pay members of Congress or regulators way less than first year law school graduates in large New York or DC law firms, you’re going to get members and regulators who take bribes. If you cut health care subsidies for Congressional staff, you’ll get lobbyists writing the laws. It’s not that all poorly paid cops are corrupt, it’s just that it’s more likely for corruption to flourish where the public sector is radically unequal compared to the private sector. That’s just the way it works.

So we need meaningfully higher pay levels for people in key positions in Washington, such as the heads of regulatory agencies, their deputies, enforcement and compliance chiefs, as well as Congressional staffers, and government “worker bees” generally. The people at the very top need to be paid at the level of high caliber private sector professionals, such as law or accounting firm partners. Other staff members in important roles need to be paid at a high enough level that they enjoy a comfortable middle class lifestyle and have it be a viable career. They require that level of compensation so that needed curbs on post-government work can also be imposed, such as a prohibition from taking a job that would have them trading on their government Rolodex in any meaningful manner for a five year period after leaving government service.

The government also needs much tougher internal audit functions. Inspectors General units vary tremendously in vigor across the Executive branch, but even the more aggressive ones are not terribly tough. The Inspector General function either needs to be reformed to make it more bloody-minded or replaced with a better set of overseers.

Have government intercede when the private sector fails. Businesses promised that deregulation would lead to higher incomes and more growth. There’s been growth, for sure, in top executive incomes, in profit share of GDP, and in unemployment.

Capitalists have been abjectly failing to do their duty. Even in the Bush expansion, they were saving rather than investing. In this phony recovery, large companies have borrowed boatloads of cash, and are either sitting on it (which in many cases means speculating in their corporate Treasuries) or buying back stock. Smaller companies are shell shocked and most report no interest in spending.

So until capitalists are willing to do their job, government need to intercede. One approach would be to tax companies aggressively on excessive cash holdings to discourage hoarding and encourage investment. A financial turnover tax would also discourage major corporations to keeping funds stashes for the purpose of speculation (many industrial companies now run their Treasuries as profit centers).

Perversely, our terrible infrastructure makes for a good jobs program. The fastest and most straight-forward way to go about fixing it would be to reinstitute revenue sharing, first implemented by Richard Nixon. The Federal government gave grants to the states, based on the premise that the national government was more efficient at tax collection but state and local governments were the better judge of priorities in their area. State and local governments were also hit very hard by the collapse in tax revenues produced by the financial crisis. Restoring service levels would also provide a boost to employment.

Curb the surveillance state. The NSA has no business hoovering up data on ordinary Americans. It should be defunded entirely in its current form and any new authorization should be on narrowly-defined programs, with far more emphasis on defensive measures (as in protection against foreign hackers, which surveilling citizens does not address) and bona fide foreign threats (versus the current use of “terrorists are in every woodpile and under every bed” claims to justify total surveillance strategies).

Restrict private sector snooping on ordinary Americans. Communications providers and information gatherers like credit bureaus should be subject to a “big data” tax on information they collect and sell. Exchanges directly with content providers, such as cookies, would be exempt, but any transmission of data about an individual to third parties is subject to a levy. This would need to be formulated as a “one vendor” rule so that if Amazon allows another vendor on its site, that vendor would pay a tax on any customer-specific information it obtains from Amazon.****

* * *
While the Skunk Party may simply become a Naked Capitalism inside joke, I hope readers see it as having enough merit even in this first approximation to see fit to circulate this post to friends and colleagues. We intend to develop a more streamlined version in upcoming weeks based on reader input. Please note that getting the principles right is the most important focus. I included policy ideas to show that some of the implications go beyond standard “progressive” thinking.

The basic message is simple: We can’t rely on the current political parties to stop corruption. It has become part of their business model. But we also need to remember that they are only a symptom of an overall societal problem, that the old ethic of noblesse oblige and propriety as curbs on elite behavior, has been supplanted by a “might makes right” value system that gives a free pass to looting and the exploitation of vulnerable populations and resources.

One illustration of the rot: Economist Dean Baker had to devote an entire post to tutoring the press as to why having former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner become head of private equity firm Warburg Pincus clearly was an example of the revolving door:  Geithner lacks both economic and investing acumen, having missed the looming financial crisis, nor does he posses any experience or expertise in private equity. He’s clearly there for his connections. The fact that Baker need to go patiently, step by step, through an explanation of what ought to be obvious is a sign of either willful blindness or deep cynicism among the elites. The examples of questionable behavior that the press gives a free pass are so numerous that it is well nigh impossible to catalogue them, let alone debunk them.

So that duty increasingly needs to be taken up by the public. One encouraging sign was how much a comparatively small group of people involved in Occupy did to focus attention on the underlying issue: that of the concentration of power and wealth in the unaccountable and too often predatory top social stratum. While there may be some members of that cohort who are distressed at the change in values in this country, they have yet to stand up effectively against the decay. The fact that those who felt implicated by the Occupy’s 1% charge rallied so quickly to crush the movement is a sign that they recognize that their dominion is not secure. Given the festering discontent at their failure to act as responsible stewards, that means large-scale change is both warranted and possible.

I hope you’ll help me advance this discussion in future posts.

*  EBITDA would be a good “pre-tax profit” figure for most industries; for financial services firm outside the big banks, you’d need a different measure, since interest is typically part of their cost of goods sold.

**As mind-boggling as it might seem, the only party that can sue outside advisors that provided information that misled investors or other parties is the client of those advisors, meaning the probably shady company itself.

*** Genes from natural cells are still exempt from patenting, but synthetic genes are fair game. The question of whether molecules or proteins can be patented remains open.

**** Note that France is studying how to implement an Internet tax to make sure digital-based businesses pay their fair share.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


    1. anon y'mouse

      oddly enough, the best MJ variety I ever smelled (disclaimer: I am not a consumer/smoker) was skunk.

      smelled more ‘plant like’ than being in a rainforest, having one of those in at harvest time.

    2. Michael Olenick

      I’m in. If we can somehow also create a religion out of the idea — maybe something nonexclusive, an add-on religion — we can qualify for Obamacare penalty exemptions like the Amish.

      1. craazyboy

        Our best option may be Skunk Science – an offshoot of Christian Science.

        “The religion’s adherents, known as Christian Scientists, subscribe to a radical form of philosophical idealism, believing that spiritual reality is the only reality and that the material world is an illusion.[5] This includes the view that sickness and death are illusions caused by mistaken beliefs, and that the sick should be treated by a special form of prayer intended to correct those beliefs, rather than by medicine.[6] Between the 1880s and 1990s the avoidance of medical care and vaccination led to the deaths of a number of adherents and their children; several parents and others were prosecuted for manslaughter or neglect and in a few cases convicted.[7] A church spokesman said in 2010 that the church of today would not allow such deaths to occur.[8]”

        Might be rough going, but the upside is maybe we can convert Tom Cruz and John Travolta?

      2. anon y'mouse

        “it is against my religious beliefs that any individual who is not directly involved with providing a product or service that maintains or improves my medical health can financially profit off of same. we call this in my temple ‘Blood Money’.”

      1. Susan the other

        I’d also like to suggest a long-term item for our agenda. To redefine wealth so that the environment and society have the greatest value. To base the value of all money on this bedrock wealth system. Luckily our dollar will transition because it is, after all, the greenback. So then capitalism, which is a useful form of accounting, will finally define profit in actual progress and justice.

    1. Ned Ludd

      I used to volunteer for my state’s Green Party. As it got more popular, electing several Greens to city councils around the state and later gaining funding as a consequence of Nader’s campaign, the people who launched the state party were sidelined. It was taken over by vain, status-seeking social climbers.

      Let’s hope a Skunk Party repels the social climbers and status seekers.

    2. steelhead23

      Yes, let’s be green skunks. While I think this brief outline for our new party is a good start, it fails to connect egalitarianism to fraternity. That is, we’re all in this together AND we all matter. I would encourage the green skunk party to recognize that all wealth originates from labor and resource exploitation. Let’s value labor (which the outline does nicely) and the environment (which the outline ignores). I want a world for my grandchildren to enjoy.

    1. Howard Beale IV

      Kelly Johnson would probably approve.

      Lockheed, not so much.

      You got the mascot, now you need the animal graphic.

      1. Whistling in the Dark

        I’m thinking the standing on front legs, butt in the air, in silhouette, kind of image — gimme t-shirt!

              1. anon y'mouse

                I want a sticker. something I can surreptitiously paste in the school bathrooms but that won’t antagonize the maintenance workers. now’s the time when I wish I had drawing skills, like the entire rest of my family does.

                (have seen custom-artwork ones left entirely alone in stalls all over, so the cleaning crew obviously has a sense of the sacredness of art. which is inspiring, whenyouthinkaboutit.)

              1. Shiftoner

                I am a (very) long time lurker, but had to log in for the first time to offer my submission for a Skunk Party logo concept. This is just a quick sketch based inspired by Howard’s suggestions. If there is interest I would be happy to vectorize it properly. Likewise, any artists out there please feel free to run with this. Thanks!


              1. anon y'mouse

                le bleu with le rouge stripe?

                more intense versions of blue and red, for greater contrast (and slanting away from typical R, W, & B imagery, but with a nod to them). ?

                please don’t take offense. I always have -ideas- that I throw out there. don’t make any boast about their quality, though.

                1. Howard Beale IV

                  I’m spitballing here using a trackball-I got a few other thoughts; I ain’t no professional artist, and I though the more simple the easier.

              2. Jackrabbit

                Can you do one where a black and white skunk is in front of a US flag? Would it work if the skunk were standing defiantly? (arms crossed?)

                Imposing the stars and stripes on the skunk is a bit confusing (especially, I think, to first-time viewers who don’t know what it is supposed to represent)

            1. Lambert Strether

              Expanding on requirements:

              1) I think the scaling is important. We can’t know what we’re going to want to print this on, and we can’t rework it each time. Elephant and donkies scale, and so therefore can skunks

              2) Yves describes skunk personality well. That should come across; the donkey and the elephant DON’T have personalities, so that is a little different. Also too “cute.” Think, perhap, totem animal as well as logo.

              3) People seem to be doing color (red white and blue). I dunno. One thing about skunks is that they’re black and white…. Which is cheap to print, besides the binary thinking, yin yang angle.

              1. Whistling in the Dark

                “People seem to be doing color (red white and blue). I dunno. One thing about skunks is that they’re black and white…. Which is cheap to print, besides the binary thinking, yin yang angle.”

                I second that. Dump the tired old RW&B! Why does it always have to be patriot-ick?

                Also, the bad boy/girl has got to be doing this pose . In silhouette. Gotta be ICONIC! It’s cute AND threatening. And that is a special combo.

                1. anon y'mouse

                  well, yess. I didn’t want to dampen anyone’s style, though. especially since it can be said that there is a strong ‘anti-american’ element in the leftward leaning side. so….

                  black and white (2 colors really) is probably best for the initial design, for contrast, etc.

                  not in favor of anthropomorphisms, myself. too much like Pepe’, although I looove heem.

                  1. Kurt Sperry

                    Polychrome logos are more eye catching if kept simple and elegant, think Google’s logo. RWB is perfect in my opinion here, we should co-opt the existing patriotic iconography and playfully reimagine it. The ideas in the essay are nothing if not patriotic–far more so than the scorched earth corporate transnational neoliberalism that has stolen and perverted the term to its own ends.

              2. Jackrabbit


                It would be cool if there was an associated sound or movement, (dance?).

                While it is cute and unusual, I don’t agree with depicting the skunk on handstand because handstands are difficult for people to perform and to hold.

                What also occurs to me is this: Skunks don’t actually smell bad – those who irritate them do!

                So an associated movement could be to hold one’s arms up and quickly turn the hands toward the irritating offender then grab one’s nose? So Maybe the tail on the design should be pointing forward?

                1. Jackrabbit

                  (Repeating what I wrote below for convenience)

                  Name/title change:

                  The American Skunk Party
                  Betray My Trust? You Stink!

    2. Howard Beale IV

      The real question is: can the nascent Skunk Party field a complete candidate slate for Congress and the Senate?

        1. Emma

          Agreed Lambert but probably not going to happen unless under the duress of bleak necessity… the aftermath of a revolution perhaps?!

          What about simply starting with removing some of the politics from politics?! An improvement (except for politicians) to ensure the people of America could speak (rather than tweeting).


          Could we not simply give a million dollars to run on, to every incumbent and challenger with 100,000 signatures? That’s it. No PACS. (OMG…..Campaign Finance Reform!)

          Could we not have Congressional districts drawn up in random fashion to let the chips fall where they may?

          Could we not get each party to put 10 names in a hat for Supreme Court Justices?

          Could we not try proportional representation for a change?

          Could we not stop thinking of the constitution as some holy bible and draw up a new one that will work more constructively and productively for the 21st C?

          Could we not instead, find and vote for people with vision who seek to reason together, to create a humane system that actually serves the common welfare of American people?

    1. savedbyirony

      perhaps the new design’s picture for the tip jar should be of skunks instead of the adorable snow leopards

  1. Adrian Haiwei

    After a ~$10bn 10-year campaign to rehabilitate the image of skunks, this branding might be a good idea.

    For now, it just creates one more datapoint supporting despair that progressives are pathetic beyond rescue when it comes to movement building and promoting good policy.

    1. anon y'mouse

      and a donkey and an elephant (denizen of zoos only in this country) are symbols one can take seriously?

      humor & humility are both good weapons, although they tend to the defensive rather than offensive side.

  2. Code Name D

    You have some great ideas here… but just how do you suppose we will carry these ideas forward?

    Coming up with new laws is easy, just about any fool can do it. (If you need proof of this, I have my own manifesto for my new ground hog party – because we are going to keep harping on these issues until something is done about them, that is more than adequate proof that any fool can come up with laws.) The real question however is how can one actually pass and enforce these kinds of laws?

    The author here is correct to note that we are not proposing any thing that is controversial. That is until we actually try to run on these issues… then suddenly they become very controversial. Poll numbers have no problem showing that people demand quality schools, so why is it that they also demand for privatizing those schools? Or rather, why dose it appear that they are demanding privatizing schools?

    For one thing, these are complex issues that demand complex solutions. There are no silver bullets out there, and no shortage of politicians saying as much. But at the end of the day we always end up only with silver bullets-solutions because that it’s the only thing that will fit in a 30 second add. The masses are also skeptical of reforms from the left – as they should be, a skeptical populace is the building blocks for an informed populace. But you aren’t going to change their minds with a 30 second add, especially when the opposition as virtually the entire AM/FM/TV dial to promote their side of the story 24-7-365. There is nothing that can be said with dozens of 30 second ads, that can’t be dismantled with a few hours of Shan Hanity, and with Fox news braking into live programming in order to tell people just how wrong you are, mixed in with good measure.

    So how do we close the gap?

    Step #1: Research!
    The Skunk Party needs to do what it can to promote academic level research and publications the issues it wishes to raise.

    Step #2: Decimate!
    Once we have quality research, the findings need to be presented to the public. The doses NOT mean a two minute interview on All Things Considered. The Skunk Party needs to set aside resources for pot casts, call-in programming, documentaries, book publications, speaking tours, and activist training. The Skunk Party needs to be of the opinion that if we do not take our message to the public ourselves – then it will not get out there.

    Step #3: Engage!
    The Skunk Party needs to take the bull by the horns and call the Republicans and Democrats for what they are. And that means taking on and dismantling the apologists. This is actually part of the Decimate mission. But this is so important, and so commonly neglected by activist that I have to set this one apart for specula attention. This is not just to discredit the opposition – all though lets face it, it’s a blast when you do, am I right? But this is also how you reach those skeptics out there and begin building your case, brick by brick.

    Step #4: Standardize the agenda!
    The Skunk Party needs to write its own manifesto of course. But this is not your average communist manifesto comrade; this is more like a blue-print for proposed legislation. On-going academic research helps to build and back up its core goals. It’s further refined by engaging with the public, both supporters and opponents alike (hay, if they have a point, they have a point, right?). It then serves as the authority for pendants, voters, and politicians to refer to when discussing the issues to other constituents.

    What doesn’t get passed today – we will continue to fight for in the future. With a specific agenda, it will be possible for voters to independently tell if a candidate agrees with it, or not, combating the ambiguous approach politicians love to use today. This makes it possible to objectively track their record.

    The beauty of this approach is that it’s not just for Skunk Party candidates… when we manage to get around to actually having candidates. You can apply them to Democrats and even Republicans as well. Kind of like how one might join a caucus.

    Step #5: Built the Skunk Party Brand
    Our elected government is rather vast. A single ballot can have as many as a hundred people running for various offices. And most voters have no idea who – or what it is they are voting for. If they vote all Rs or all Ds, it’s because that may be the only thing they have to go on. Even aggressive civic activist may only manage to study up on one or two candidates.

    It’s time to recognize that there is value to be had in a political brand. With the Skunk Party Manifesto in our hands, it not only becomes possible determine weather candidates adhere to the party agenda, but it gives candidates an idea of what to run on. Keep in mind that we already have pundits whacking the weeds on these topics, which clears the way for candidates to run on them without wasting resources trying to convince there voters of a specific idea – with 30 second ads, the only real tool they have available.

    That’s my five step guide to building a new political party for the 21st century. The beauty is that we don’t need political majorities in office to get this party off the ground. We can start today, and we can start small. We start off by doing our homework, build our own megaphone, and horning our way into the debate. This holds a heck of a lot more promise then trying to wait for the Democrats to get a clue.

    One is not free on the day they slay their masters,
    But on the day they challenge their chains.

    1. anon y'mouse

      interesting. one modest idea: of the above ‘identify and tax corporate welfare queens’ perhaps we can research and certify the non-welfare queens. somewhat like those ‘authentic organic’ type certifications.

      “Skunk Party Certified–xxx% {welfare} Free”

      nah, probably too stupid.

  3. nobody

    “…an increasingly pro-business judiciary…”

    It would be better to formulate this in such a way as to distinguish between Big Business and business as such. The judiciary we have does not favor business in general; it’s hostile towards small business and Main Street.

    (And even at the level of Big Business, a good case could be made that it favors rentier, extractive, predatory, and vulture business at the expense of productive business.)

  4. Jackrabbit

    Skunks are black and white. Taking a stand is in their DNA! Elephants and asses are mostly grey and motley… like the morals/ethics of their politicians.

    Now voters who’ve been holding their nose have a real choice! Vote Skunk Party.

    I’m in.

    1. Whistling in the Dark

      “Now voters who’ve been holding their nose have a real choice! Vote Skunk Party.”

      Yes! I love it. More of this. Don’t hold your nose anymore — go skunk!

  5. Anarcissie

    I love skunks and the Skunk Manifesto and I will spread the latter around, but actually I don’t think reformed capitalism is going to stay reformed any more in the future than it did in the past. As Uncle Karl once said, ‘It’s socialism or barbarism.’ I think he was optimistic about the second part. I’d say ‘Communism or self-annihilation’ but I’m not as famous as Uncle Karl.

    1. nobody

      Yes but:

      As I stressed in the “Awakening” leaflet, I think the dynamic of a popular movement is far more important than its ostensible ideological positions. It is quite natural that people react against particular grievances without waiting until it becomes feasible to envision more fundamental social changes. Moreover, they are unlikely to ever arrive at the latter stage if they have never tested their strength or developed their critical capacities in more immediate struggles. Once they are engaged in this process they will soon enough figure out for themselves if they need to go further. Virtually every revolution in history has passed through such phases. To take just one striking example, in early 1789 the French people were asked to submit complaints or demands that their representatives could bring to a national meeting of the Estates. These “Cahiers de Doléances” (Registries of Grievances) raised hundreds of different issues, but they were virtually all in the form, “The King should change this or that law . . . The King should abolish this or that tax . . . The King should order the nobles to stop doing this or that . . .” A superficial observer might have concluded that the movement was not only totally reformist, but totally monarchist! Yet a few months later the Bastille had fallen and three years later the King had been beheaded.

    2. Ned Ludd

      This is an anti-capitalist manifesto that calls for… reformed capitalism. I agree with this section:

      It’s insane to treat gunshot wounds with Band-Aids, yet that happens every day in Washington as well as London and Brussels. Timid, incremental fixes to rotten systems won’t save them.

      Instead of trying to regulate a rotten system, it seems a Skunk Party could dream a bit bigger. Or be a bit more populist – debt relief for student loans, a basic income, mortgage relief, etc.

        1. Ned Ludd

          Manifestos include platforms, as does this post, under “Initial Skunk Party Policy Ideas”. From the Communist Manifesto:

          1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

          2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

          3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.

          4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

          5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

          6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

          7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

          8. Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

          9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of population over the country.

          10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc., etc.

          1. Jackrabbit

            I guesss it couldn’t hurt to take the ideals expressed in the platform above and make them more specific. But remember, we are just now working on a logo!?!

            And AFAIK, it is yet unclear if it will be a movement or a real political party. I imagine that that choice would have a big effect on what the platform is.

            1. anon y'mouse

              read above. she says specifically that this is not a party. as soon as you become a party, you become co-optable, and have to bargain and whatnot. you lose your ability to pressure the inside.

              and, I agree with this. which is why I don’t want a party. this will be a way to assess both parties, and their policies and what we end up with, from the outside and hopefully build momentum towards doing what needs done.

              so, I would hope that it never goes the way of the Green Party and thus infiltration by ze petty political self-interests.

              it’s Meta-

              1. Moneta

                Without a party, the people who are part of the movement will have to refrain from voting.

                As long as someone shows ties to either the corrupt democrats or republicans, the movement will lose credibility.

                IMO, a party is important because you have to stop the reformers from siding with one of the 2 big parties.

                1. Ned Ludd

                  I believe that advocates for women’s suffrage in the U.S., who couldn’t easily vote in pro-suffrage candidates, instead targeted Democrats, to make sure anti-suffrage Democrats lost their political office. This tactic strengthened the suffragists within the party, by weakening the anti-suffragists.

                  1. savedbyirony

                    The advantage of being in this case basically a populist economic reform “movement” is to build power across a very broad sweep of the American public (including class, race, religion, ect.) while being able to stay out of the polarizing “social” issues (such as abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.) If you work from a party, you must speak to all these issues.

    3. Ruben

      I believe that using the same concepts that they have worked so hard to get established, and turn these concepts against them, gives the best initial conditions for a dynamics that leads to a regime shift.

      The skunk imagery is cool too.

      And this first motto: “The best political system that money can buy is doing a great job for its customers and a lousy job for the rest of us” is simply brilliant.

  6. Charles Yaker

    This is great needs to be operationalized. Maybe rewritten at an eight grade level and posted in short bits and pieces on billboards throughout the land.

      1. anon y'mouse


        “Why Monsanto (walmart, blahblahblah) has more rights than you do:”

        followed by xyz things that the named corporation has done or is able legally to do (make distinction clear–don’t intend to mislead), followed by

        “Could you do any of these things? Does the government hold the worth of Citizen {Monsanto} more valuable than your vote?”

        how about an “Are Dollars Votes?” thing. i’ll have to think of this more. perhaps a ‘how dollars are like votes’ thing as well. hrm…

        it has to be short enough to put on a flyer. it doesn’t have to be ‘eighth grade level’ but people are just pressed for time and have learned to screen out almost anything that looks like advertising, or looks too wordy for them to take the time to decipher. it’s not about ability, it’s just about being pressed for time & attention.

        so, the basic problem is balancing those factors vs. developing a clear understanding of the issue.

        we’ve had one up in the hallways at school that has been VERY effective (at least on me) which was just a series of ones that laid out how the administrative layer was screwing and mismanaging everyone else in our school.

        one basically went

        Annual Salary of [School President’s Name]


        Annual Salary of xyz# administrators at $xxx,xxxx per year

        ———x million——

        Annual Salary of tenured staff….untenured staff, etc.

        another one in this series just laid out, accountingwise, all of the money the school was wasting every year that could be applied to the ‘budget shortfall’ that they intend to make cuts for within the upcoming budget.

        these were very -to the point- and made it obvious what is going on. I would advise that UNpropaganda/UNmarketing for the skunk party be just as clear, and quick to digest as these.

        1. just_kate

          Flyers/banner ads with JPMCWELLSBOFA blahblah bank name / “Mission Accomplished” / a graphic of a money bags character / xxx,xxx foreclosures and counting! with a footnote for the data source

      2. just_kate

        For me quoting proven lies or self serving statements from elites are really effective but so many people don’t know who all the players are so another idea is to publish the quoted lie or statement followed by some facts that expose that person. Like a wealthy dude saying somethng about bootstraps and then describing that persons backgound to show they have no business talking about bootstraps.

        1. just_kate

          Yeah I know this happens today but typically in the R vs D more local level but I don’t think I’ve really seen it on a national level since both sides are so similarly hypocritical/out of touch.

  7. nobody

    (For Elizabeth Bishop)

    Nautilus Island’s hermit
    heiress still lives through winter in her Spartan cottage;
    her sheep still graze above the sea.
    Her son’s a bishop. Her farmer
    is first selectman in our village,
    she’s in her dotage.

    Thirsting for
    the hierarchic privacy
    of Queen Victoria’s century,
    she buys up all
    the eyesores facing her shore,
    and lets them fall.

    The season’s ill–
    we’ve lost our summer millionaire,
    who seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean
    catalogue. His nine-knot yawl
    was auctioned off to lobstermen.
    A red fox stain covers Blue Hill.

    And now our fairy
    decorator brightens his shop for fall,
    his fishnet’s filled with orange cork,
    orange, his cobbler’s bench and awl,
    there is no money in his work,
    he’d rather marry.

    One dark night,
    my Tudor Ford climbed the hill’s skull,
    I watched for love-cars. Lights turned down,
    they lay together, hull to hull,
    where the graveyard shelves on the town. . . .
    My mind’s not right.

    A car radio bleats,
    ‘Love, O careless Love . . . .’ I hear
    my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell,
    as if my hand were at its throat . . . .
    I myself am hell,
    nobody’s here–

    only skunks, that search
    in the moonlight for a bite to eat.
    They march on their soles up Main Street:
    white stripes, moonstruck eyes’ red fire
    under the chalk-dry and spar spire
    of the Trinitarian Church.

    I stand on top
    of our back steps and breathe the rich air–
    a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage pail
    She jabs her wedge-head in a cup
    of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail,
    and will not scare.

    1. nobody

      (For Robert Lowell)

      This is the time of year
      when almost every night
      the frail, illegal fire balloons appear.
      Climbing the mountain height,

      rising toward a saint
      still honored in these parts,
      the paper chambers flush and fill with light
      that comes and goes, like hearts.

      Once up against the sky it’s hard
      to tell them from the stars—
      planets, that is—the tinted ones:
      Venus going down, or Mars,

      or the pale green one. With a wind,
      they flare and falter, wobble and toss;
      but if it’s still they steer between
      the kite sticks of the Southern Cross,

      receding, dwindling, solemnly
      and steadily forsaking us,
      or, in the downdraft from a peak,
      suddenly turning dangerous.

      Last night another big one fell.
      It splattered like an egg of fire
      against the cliff behind the house.
      The flame ran down. We saw the pair

      of owls who nest there flying up
      and up, their whirling black-and-white
      stained bright pink underneath, until
      they shrieked up out of sight.

      The ancient owls’ nest must have burned.
      Hastily, all alone,
      a glistening armadillo left the scene,
      rose-flecked, head down, tail down,

      and then a baby rabbit jumped out,
      short-eared, to our surprise.
      So soft!—a handful of intangible ash
      with fixed, ignited eyes.

      Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry!
      O falling fire and piercing cry
      and panic, and a weak mailed fist
      clenched ignorant against the sky!

      1. nobody

        “The ancient owls’ nest must have burned…”

        [Knock, knock, knock, knock…]

        — Who is it?

        — It’s Agent Briggs, Agent Cooper.

        — [under his breath] Agent Cooper… [exhales]


        — Just a moment…

        [door opening]

        — Major…

        — May I come in?

        — Please.

        [Footsteps… door closing…]

        — I have a message for you.

        — From whom?

        — I am not at liberty to reveal the nature of my work. This secrecy pains me from time to time. Any bureaucracy that functions in secret inevitably lends itself to corruption. But these rules I have pledged to uphold. And I believe a pledge is sacred.

        — Speaking as a Man, and a fellow employee of the Federal Government, so do I.

        — Well I may reveal this much. Among my many tasks is the monitoring of deep space monitors aimed at galaxies beyond our own. We routinely receive various communications [briefcase opening] space garbage to decode and examine. It looks something like this. It’s radio waves, and gibberish, Agent Cooper. Till Thursday night… Friday morning, to be exact.

        — Around the time that I was shot.

        — The readout took us by surprise. Row after row of gibberish, and all of a sudden… “…THE/OWLS/ARE/NOT/WHAT/THEY/SEEM…”

        — Why did you bring this to me?

        — Because, later in the morning… “…COOPER/COOPER/COOPER…”

        — My God.

  8. Jackrabbit

    I can see ‘Young Skunks’ chapters in schools across the country.

    Many young people know that things are broken but they don’t have any way to participate or express their wish for an ethical society.

    1. Whistling in the Dark

      I don’t know why, but I had the same thought. But my mind took “Young Pioneers” and went for the alliterative allusion: “Young Polecats.”

      Either way, here’s hoping.

  9. Crazy Horse

    I do like the Skunk Party Manifesto, but I’m afraid that skunks lack the firepower to bring even the most basic of it’s tenants to reality.

    To the tune of “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” by Loudon Wainwright III.

    Problem is, skunks have an archaic and totally ineffective system of defense when confronted by current technology. Much like the children who are confronted with television on their way to becoming Consumers rather than Citizens.

    What we need is a movement populated by Warriors rather than Skunks.

    The Crazy Horse Party Manifesto:

    1-Seize and nationalize all banks and pseudo-bank hedge funds and distribute their assets among State Banks organized on the North Dakota model.

    2-Elected public officials shall receive a comfortable lifetime stipend equal to 1 1/2 times the median national income upon retirement or being voted out of office. In turn they shall be bared for life from working for any corporation or any individual with more than 1 million in assets.

    3-The Department of Defense shall be called by its proper name, the Department of War. Its budget shall be Constitutionally limited to an amount not to exceed the average per capita military expenditures of the 50 richest countries in the world.

    4-A mandatory Potlatch system shall be instituted wherein the wealthiest .01% of the population are required to give away 50% of their income or face life in prison.

    5- Mandatory re-repatriation of all profits laundered and hidden in overseas accounts by individuals like Mitt Romney and corporations like Apple. Death penalty and nationalization for failure to voluntarily fully disclose and comply.

    6-A single payer universal health care system modeled after the successful examples in other countries shall be instituted immediately.

    7- The national goal shall be to triple the doctor/patient ratio from its present level to equal the level achieved by Cuba. Toward that end medical education shall be free with living stipends provided for all qualified students.

    8- All existing student loan debt shall be abolished and higher education henceforth shall be free based upon a competitive merit system.

    9- The criminal system of granting monopoly patents for drugs shall be abolished immediately. In its place medical schools and research institutes shall be adequately funded for research and development of new drugs which shall be priced on a cost plus averaging scale.

    10- All individuals imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses shall be pardoned and released. Henceforth all drugs shall be de-criminialized subject only to a labeling requirement. Sorry Mexican cartels and CIA black opps– your business model will no longer be profitable,and the prison-industrial system will have a lot of vacant cells.

    11- The revenues saved from the disbanding of the Imperial Army shall be put to use re-vamping the national infrastructure to operate in the post petroleum and post growth world that will inevitably occur whether we plan for it or not.

    1. Whistling in the Dark

      “Mandatory re-repatriation of all profits laundered and hidden in overseas accounts by individuals like Mitt Romney and corporations like Apple. Death penalty and nationalization for failure to voluntarily fully disclose and comply.”

      I’m down with the death penalty for Apple. But, let’s please don’t nationalize Mit Romney. He already blew his shot at American Idol, anyway.

    2. Ned Ludd

      If we are going to dream that big, I suggest that all organizations that do business over state lines, or internationally, should be democratically run: one worker, one vote.

    3. Banger

      We need a forum to debate the issues you raise. I honestly believe our problems are, at heart, a problem with conceptual frameworks or, to put it another way, with philosophy and ethics. You and I may share the idea that greed is a bad thing but many don’t–how do we show them that it is bad or even talk about the concept of “bad” so we can, through dialogue, come up with something we agree on. I can certainly present the case for a morality where greed is bad based on science as well as philosophically.

    4. just_kate

      #3 Department of War, I’ve made this suggestion several times to my federal representatives and I’ve yet to hear any pro-military person object to the idea – they like it just fine, f-yeah!

      1. Crazy Horse

        So how do they like the idea of a budget restricted to the level of countries who don’t have Imperial aspirations? Are they on board with a 95% budget cut? LOL

  10. nobody

    There is a tension between:

    It’s insane to treat gunshot wounds with Band-Aids, yet that happens every day in Washington as well as London and Brussels.


    Skunks are cute and telegenic, which is important in American politics.

    Think globally, act globally.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I bet Joan of Arc was cute, and she was clearly charismatic, which as close as you got back then to telegenic.

  11. dannyc

    Most people have seen this, but I really wish it had gone viral when it was recorded back in April. What Sachs says here would’ve fit right in anyday at Zuccotti Park, yet he’s saying it to the Philadelphia Fed. His repeated use of the word illegal, then immoral (rather than mismanagement and incompetence) makes this real and true counterpoint Justice Louis Powell’s memo.

  12. El Snarko

    We’ll be stinking in Dayton, and reeking in Reading Pa.,
    anywhere but Wall Street, we’re Skunking USA !!

    A Capital idea Yves…..certainly tee shirts, but am thinking coffee mugs are more practically subversive.

    Conceptually this rocks.

  13. Shiftoner

    Hello everyone. Amateur artist here and I have a logo concept to submit. Please forgive me if this is double or triple posted I am just a lurker getting my feet wet for the first time here. I attempted to reply to Howard’s post above but it appeared to time out, so I am not sure if it will go through. If there is positive feedback I would be happy to create a high quality vectorized version of this. Thank you for your patience and consideration.

    1. Jackrabbit

      My 2cents:

      * You should collaborate with Howard Beale IV

      * The white part of the skunk is too big, I think.

      1. Shiftoner

        Thanks for the critique! I agree entirely with your intuition. There needs to be a little more balance between the blue, red and negative space. Given the positive responses it seems worth giving it another pass. Thanks to everyone for their comments and patience.

        Howard, if you are interested in collaborating just let me know and I will make sure we find each other

          1. anon y'mouse

            yeah, the definition on the top of its head is kinda lacking, but I thought that the bristly tail and cute nose was spot on.

            bristly tail saves us from Nike swoop-a-doop and implies he’s ready for action.

            might be to pacificistic-looking though. or just blank. I mean, this little guy is not giving any emotional vibes but “cute nature creature.”

            1. anon y'mouse

              and yes, I do sometimes know the difference between -two-to-&too, but my hand obviously doesn’t.

  14. Tom Hickey

    Great start. Best I’ve seen yet.

    I suggest checking out the Green Party platform as a guideline for developing and presenting an agenda for the Skunk Party, if not an actual platform. Calling it a manifesto is probably better rhetorically than a platform. But it needs to be organized in a comprehensive way that addresses the major issues. The Green Party has been thinking about this for some time and has the bases covered pretty well in their outline. Always good to check out the competition. The GP can be viewed as “the competition” on the left now.

    In the spirit of checking out the competition, it’s also wise to look at the Tea Party, too. They represent the disgruntled” on the right. It’s interesting to compare and contrast, in that there are agreements over the problems but disagreements over the solutions. For example, they agree that the problem is with the power structure but they identify it with government instead of acknowledging that government has been captured by the ruling class, the result being a corporate state similar to corporate states of the past in its wielding of power in the interests of the elite and their cronies and minions.

    1. jrs

      Captured by the ruling class or always controlled by the ruling class (that’s why they are called the ruling class)? I’m going with the latter. Though there are degrees and these are indeed pretty bad times for anyone who isn’t ruling class having any voice in DC.

  15. Ulysses

    This is awesome! I have to confess that many of us at my high school were a bit embarrassed that we had a skunk mascot back in the day. If this takes off, all of the teasing our marching band endured at Central NY state football games– from mustangs, cougars, Spartans, etc.– will have been worth it!!

  16. PQS

    Love the ideas here.

    Important principle: Always look to the future.

    We need to invest in the future: children, education, infrastructure, clean energy, safe communities, small ag, etc. All these things are popular with middle class people and provide avenues for the poor to move into more security.

    More specifically, I’d say “Abolish the Senate”. It’s outlived its usefulness and the fact that a few nutjobs can hold 310M of us hostage over abortion or other idiocy is ridiculous and not democratic. I’d also like to see decentralized power with MORE representatives representing smaller districts closer to their own constituents, and a total breakup of Washington DC. There is no earthly reason to have all those Palaces of Iniquity when we have the internet. Votes can be cast on a secure network and doublechecked later. Representatives need to spend time in their districts listening to their constituents. Of course, total campaign finance reform and a limit of all campaigns to six months, tops. (I’d wish for three months, but Americans spend so much time watching sports, I’d be afraid they weren’t paying attention.)

        1. anon y'mouse

          that first one is excellent!

          too bad that might lead us to be confused with some kind of Alex Jones thing.

      1. direction

        omg +10 for that, you crack me up.

        I am not usually in alignment with the black bloc, but if Honey Badger’s leading the charge then I am so there!

  17. bulfinch

    Lovely bunch, skunks; a finer namesake you’d struggle to find. And It’s true what you say: I had a skunk waddle over to me on my walk two nights back, like a stray cat might do. I kinda froze in place, which sent him scrambling, but before that he seemed very cool.

  18. quunt

    I want to join a party that _couldn’t_ care less what other people think. There are plenty out there for people that are able to care less since their current level of caring is non-zero.

    1. Code Name D

      Are you a Democrat? No.

      Then you must be a Republican. No.

      Ah, you must be one of those “third party” suppoters then. Third party? Hell I would settel for a second one.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      My name dyslexia strikes! Fixed, thanks! You know if you Google “Louis Powell” you get Lewis Powell., and I didn’t notice!

      1. Stan Musical

        As someone with my own dyslexic problems (which convinced me dyslexia isn’t yes/no, or full-blown or not) I sympathize.

        We can mostly thank the Britsh ruling class for divorcing English pronunciation from its spelling (e.g. dropping final r’s). On the rare occasions I meet one I love telling snobby Poms how Shakespeare’s pronuncition was much closer to Irish or American than current British English.

  19. Lambert Strether

    The Green Party and the Skunk Party don’t contradict; they are orthogonal. The Skunk Party is not a political party at all; it’s more like a permanent floating house party or (as the Greeks would call it) a symposium.

    1. twonine

      It would be great to see a Skunk Party cabinet member in the Green Shadow Cabinet with regular Skunk Party posts.

    2. susan the other

      Speaking of the Greeks, why not a Skunk Olympics? An internet extravaganza dedicated to the victory of society and the environment. Every two years as an alternative to the other Olympic fiasco – the one which produces obscene profits for the corporate world.

  20. Code Name D

    The socialists are coming!

    This is not the first new party I have seen, or even been a part of. But in each case there is always a flood of the ideological driven with their own pet manifestoes they want to foist poor fledgling party – usually with fatal results.

    This is why I place research at step #1. Scientists and academics doesn’t generate reforms of course, but their observations from the real world is what is needed in order to justify (or discredit) any proposed ideas. Evidence comes first, we draw conclusions from the evidence, and draw up possible reforms from the conclusions. Get this order wrong, and we will be wasting our time, no mater how cute the mascot looks. Or worse, we end up being captured by the opposition and you end up knocking on doors promoting the very thing you railed against just weeks before.

    Here is a case in point were the lobbyist disclosure laws passed in Washington. It makes strikes reporting criteria for lobbyists approaching any politician or staffer. The idea was to run interference for politicians, keeping lobbyists at bay.

    But they failed because it’s known that it’s the politicians that seek out the lobbyists, not the other way around. The restrictions may have removed lobbyists from the capital rotunda, but not from the halls of power. If any thing it made the system even less transparent as fundraisers now take place in privet venues not open to the public. This is the general problem with most clean election laws; they are based on assumptions that are not consistent with what is observed.

    Here is another example. The few public financing laws that have been passed were supposed to remove fundraising burdens for politicians. But with the Democrats at least (I don’t know about the Republicans), it’s the party leadership that place fundraising quotas that must be met. Those who have the benefit of public financing actually see their fundraising burdens go up, not down, forcing them to spend even more time dialing for dollars, only to turn around and hand those funds over to the party. (After all, the candidate doesn’t need the money any more, right?)

    1. anon y'mouse

      you’re right, which is why I made absolutely NO suggestions except inconsequential details like which way the skunk logo will be facing (3/4 view, like a fashion model, please~!). the more stuff gets piled on and the more tension builds between the elements on the list, and the more arguments open up about values, ways and means.

      meaning, either you support what is here or you don’t. don’t read into it anything that isn’t here.

      which is why I think this statement without a kind of a general ‘purpose’ statement, like “we are about xyz, and that’s what we want to fight for.” an underlying thread that ties it all together, so that people aren’t asking for saving the whales or anything.

      I liked your list. it was a ‘means’ list, not a ‘values’ list. this one Yves gave is kind of an ‘issues’ list, kind of a mission statement (a bit fuzzy) and the values part just has to be read into it. it might be good to explore that in some depth, and draw some distinctions.

      the only difficulty I see with your reasonable action list above was that it will all take MONEY, TIME and PEOPLE effort. this all leads us down the garden path to the ‘governance’ issue. is there a governance issue?

  21. jonboinAR

    This is what I’ve been looking for. That was a brilliant manifesto draft, Yves. Skunk party it is. I’m in. What can I do? I live in a Fox News, Tea Party, rural conservative haven. These folks feel cut off from national issues and feel that while the progressives may have their economic interests at heart somewhat, that the progressives completely despise their social and cultural mores and are antagonistic, at best, toward them. So they convince themselves (This is my hypothesis, or reading. I know it’s presumptuous pretending I can read minds.) that the conservative/libertarian agenda will be in their best interest in the long run, economically as well as otherwise socially.

    Can we reintroduce somehow, class-based rather than identity politics, so that my people feel included in this rather than the scapegoats of the Left? How can I hope to sell it to them, IOW?

    1. anon y'mouse

      this is a really good question. I’ve never seen anyone successfully convert this type, but i’m not in a position where i’m likely to see it either.

      the best way to convert people is what? use all the tools of reason and rhetoric.

      make it clear how these things impinge on the lives of the person you’re talking about. then draw their view to the wide-angle and show them that there are millions of people like them.

      I once was able to have the most minor of victories trying to discuss a very small and particular issue. I don’t claim egotistically to have changed that person’s -view- about the group of people that she held biased opinions about due to their race, but was able to draw the issue home to her in a very direct way. unfortunately, I was also admittedly aided by her dislike of the party who was carrying out the racial bias.

      basically, I told her that the apartment manager’s racial bias was a deciding element in why he forced a certain set of tenants to move along (under the flag of the law, with a no-reason eviction, no less–meaning NO paper trail to implicate him and naturally no way for these tenants to ‘prove’ anything against him in court). I knew all of this because I was his assistant at the time.

      he also made a multitude of comments about the lifestyles and behaviors of a lot of other tenants as well. he disliked smoking, and smokers for one ready example.

      when explaining why I was leaving my employ under this person, I was telling her about kicking the minority people out, and she goes “oh, well…I don’t like THEM anyway.”

      I told her “if he kicks them out because he doesn’t like their race, he can kick you out because he doesn’t like your smoking. and he can kick those people out, because he doesn’t like their floral curtains visible through the window, and he can kick this one out because he thinks she doesn’t raise her kid right (that one just moved after he harassed her about it, to be honest). where does it END?”

      finally, she agreed with me. this was probably no major victory, but at least the issue had been made relevant to her.

      hopefully i’m not identified and sued for slander. yikes!

    2. Jackrabbit

      The Tea Party was organized to stand against tax increases. Crony capitalism and corruption is a hidden tax on all of us.

      Anti-cronies / anti-corruption is also patriotic: the parasites already have undue influence and are buying more influence everyday. This is changing our nation in many ways that are undesirable to those who identify as Tea Party Patriots.

      In a larger sense, though, the principled left and the principled right are natural allies with respect to cronies and corruption. For the left, its an issue of fairness (increased wealth inequality); for the right, there’s a threat to freedom via the forming of a new aristocracy.

  22. David Lentini

    Yves, this is a real advance toward a better day for us all. Your statements about the problems and the real solutions are excellent. I certainly want to join up. and help in any way I can. I wish OWS had made these statements as a real platform; then they might more visible today.

    But I have to say that I find political humor has very finite (and short) limits. The joke soon wears off, and laughter hinders the ability to become outraged and enlightened. “Skunk Party” is a great tag to get attention. But the better goal should be to offer a name that people can identify with in a more positive light (and sweeter smell). I think that calling this movement the “skunk party” will make it easy to ridicule and therefore blunt the message.

    To me, what you describe is a return to democracy, especially by limiting the self-destructive effects of capitalism and the tendency of wealth to become political power. Democracy requires a commitment to equality, justice, and truth, and the SP platform honors all three. Unfortunately, “democracy party” sound too much like a certain sell-out party. “Liberty Party” might be useful, since, as I recall, John Adams defined “liberty” in terms of being free from the oppression of one’s neighbors. And John and Abigail Adams strike me as representing the sort of mutual respect and love we admire today.

    1. jonboinAR

      “Yankee Doodle went to town…” , Although YD refers to an unlettered hick, none of us are embarrassed by those words. It’s one of our historical anthems. I think the Skunk Party is a pretty good name in the way it combines defiance and self-effacement or humility.

    2. Lambert Strether

      “First they laugh at you….”

      Jokes may wesr off, but I don’t think that totem animals, even if they originate in a humorous context, do.

      IIRC, and readers correct me, both elephant and donkey originated as political cartoons.

  23. Banger

    Great manifesto. However, I think we ought to continue this discussion everyday and work it. It is through dialectic that we can come up with the best stuff.

    My first impression is that it is too long–my short version would be as follows: the Skunk Party seeks to solve collective problems through reason and compassion rather than through the application of physical force–we need to be persuaded not forced to do what is right except for those of us who are clearly trying to harm others. Just that would create a major revolution in the way we do things in this country.

    Also, if government is corrupt how can we expect government to do the things you have in the manifesto? I believe government is so corrupt that it is, at present, not vulnerable to real reform. Reform would require, essentially, a deconstruction of the federal government and an interim period of relative chaos under some kind of caretaker regime. This is why I favor a practical alliance with the libertarian right–we agree to deconstruct the feds if they agree to deconstruct the corporate elite to put matters into a brutally simple form.

    1. Jackrabbit

      Obanger, the libertarian Obama:

      “Its a great manifesto” BUT…

      Adds a predictable dig at government.
      Forgive me if I feel that you don’t really want to reform government, you want to abolish it.

      Ally with Libertarians against corruption? Libertarian principles are that people should be able to do whatever they please – if they can get away with it. So reforming government does not advance their agenda: they would much rather use corruption to argue for abolishing or knee-capping government.

    2. jonboinAR

      I believe government is so corrupt that it is, at present, not vulnerable to real reform. Reform would require, essentially, a deconstruction of the federal government and an interim period of relative chaos under some kind of caretaker regime.

      I don’t know. I think I have to disagree with you on that uhhh…. plank!, Banger, my bud. Government’s been awfully corrupt also, as I understand, in the past, but has been successfully cleaned up, …fairly well… I mean, there’s been some corruption in all governments, I think. It’s a matter of how much. Ours is fairly bad at present, but has not been always, has it. The tide’s ebbed and flowed throughout this republic’s history. That can probably said about all others.

      You choose anarchy, or complete overthrow, man, neither you nor I have any idea what will come out of that. A lot of suffering, for one thing, almost surely. It’s truly an extreme and desperate option. I don’t think that’s a necessary choice, yet.

    3. anon y'mouse

      translation: make sure you sound MOST unthreatening, and then wimp out in the most major way possible.

      what would be the point of any kind of “party” under the view that gov’t is not amenable to reform?

      if you don’t believe that, then you probably don’t belong in the Skunk Party. this is not a dig at you, but every single thing up there is either a gov’t or corporate reform, or aiming at such. if they aren’t possible under your worldview, then don’t waste your time.


  24. Tony Levelle

    Sign me up!

    This post strikes me as a well-reasoned, intelligent analysis of the current system, and a place to start changing it.

  25. joehimself

    David Lentini:
    “I think that calling this movement the “skunk party” will make it easy to ridicule and therefore blunt the message.”
    I agree.
    I am frustrated as I have no one to vote for this next big election. No candidate or party is acceptable to me. As I was reading Ives manifesto, about halfway down, I realized that not only would I vote for Ives for President but I would donate and actively campaign for her. I’ve never felt strong enough about any candidate ever to say those things.

    1. Waking Up

      I have to disagree with your premise on being “ridiculed”.

      Why? Because, as stated under “Why Skunks” in the post, “skunks could care less what you think about them”.

    1. susan the other

      That’s a good idea. It would make a very effective forum. An internet campaign for Skunk in Chief starting with a primary campaign followed by something like a third party candidate running against the status quo. Very Abbie Hoffman.

  26. tim s

    I tried posting this to Reddit in /r/politics, but it was removed from there to /POLITIC by a bot. Curiously, the/POLITIC sub seems to be flooded with posts by this same bot.

    I don’t know why this would happen, but it STINKS. Reddit is a great place for this to get some traction. If anyone who knows how to navigate Reddit better than me, please post this link there.

  27. kay dub

    A couple further platform plank suggestions:
    1. Nobody makes money for providing less of the service they offer. (I’m looking at you, insurance companies.)
    2. One license plate per state, identifiable by color from 200 feet.
    3. Magazines delivered to subscribers of them shall be free from annoying scattering subscription come-on cards.
    4. Socialized losses = socialized profits.

    1. anon y'mouse

      i’m with you. let’s do some clawback on the profits of those companies that make them by giving their employees less than it takes to live on, which forces said employees to be on various gov’t ‘doles’.

      that would really scare them, though. I think you’d guarantee all-out-war.

      “NObody touches mah profitsss!!”

  28. Montanamaven

    Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights is another place to start.

    The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

    The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

    The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

    The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

    The right of every family to a decent home;

    The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

    The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

    The right to a good education.

    All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

    I like the idea of a “useful” job as that would get rid of a lot of bankers and managers of all kinds. My job would be in jeopardy but then I would have a right to a nice old age so who cares. I could help my husband with the cows.

    The Montana Constitution revised in 1972 states that we have an “unalienable right to a clean and healthful environment”. So I’d include that.

    I’m no longer much interested in defending private property. Personal property, yes. But no more inherited wealth. No more propertarianism as someone remarked on the Gar Alporowitz article’s comments.

  29. joehimself

    I agree with David Lentini:
    “I think that calling this movement the “skunk party” will make it easy to ridicule and therefore blunt the message.”

    I am frustrated as I have no one to vote for this next big election. No candidate or party is acceptable to me. As I was reading Ives manifesto, about halfway down, I realized that not only would I vote for Ives for President but I would donate and actively campaign for her. I’ve never felt strong enough about any candidate ever to say those things.

  30. joehimself

    The more that is added to her manifesto the more dificult it would be to gain a strong base. What she said above is what everyone wants. Who would argue against it? It is basic and powerful just like Mom and apple pie.

  31. savedbyirony

    just very briefly: under the “principles” section i think a statement to the effect that the skunk party honors and reflects the Constitutional ideals (and practicalities) under which this counrty was founded would be appropriate and under the “policies” section an endorsement for a Constitutional Amendment making it clear Corporations are not individuals/citizens nor entitlied to the rights of such would be a plus.

    1. savedbyirony

      I love the possibility for the directions this could go in, and in reference to the Corp. media’s strangulation of ideas and common citizen’s voices, it would be a beautiful development if somehow through the internet and other social media means if writers such as Yves, Lambert, Dean, etc. could become the widely read political “pamphleteers” of our day.

  32. Tommy S.

    If someone hasn’t already said so, PLEASE check out the IOPS.
    it has thousands of members and is conducting local level face to face
    democracy….Int’l Org for Participatory Society…
    …liked this article too! love this site….

  33. Teejay

    The enemy in this war has been: public education, schools, teachers; public transportation, public television, public roads and bridges, public parking, public land, public parks and beaches, publically financed elections, public disclosure, public admission, the public option, public mail service, publically run central bank and local banks and the public good. The plutocrat class hails private enterprise, private jets, private clubs, private beaches, private islands, private gated communities, private property.

    “Corruption is the biggest single problem”
    Clearly, but doesn’t the word seem to universally connote brown paper bags and basement freezers? Does Spencer (regulators are there to serve the banks) Bachus think he’s corrupt? Do his constituents? I doubt it. The case that our entire governing structure is saturated in corruption, which it is, will need to be presented in a most compelling and methodical manner. And then it needs to be repeated over and over and over and over. We have been civically complacent as a society and distracted from this Quiet Coup that Simon Johnson so aptly calls it and it will take a herculian effort to wake up a tipping point of the citizenry to change it.
    I’m on board. How can I participate?

    1. anon y'mouse

      your first paragraph would make a good flyer. followed by the statement

      “Public Enemy #1—You, the Citizen”

  34. Jackrabbit

    (Repeating from above)

    In answer to: how can I interest my Tea-Party friends/neighbors in the Skunk Party.

    The Tea Party was organized to stand against tax increases. Crony capitalism and corruption is a hidden tax on all of us.

    Anti-cronies / anti-corruption is also patriotic: the parasites already have undue influence and are buying more influence everyday. This is changing our nation in many ways that are undesirable to those who identify as Tea Party Patriots.

    In a larger sense, though, the principled left and the principled right are natural allies with respect to cronies and corruption. For the left, its an issue of fairness (increased wealth inequality); for the right, there’s a threat to freedom via the forming of a new aristocracy.

    1. nobody

      “If you look at how much liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans agree with one another — regardless of the positions they take — you come up with figures for a cross-ideological consensus… The conventional narrative has liberals and conservatives always, consistently taking opposite positions, but…that’s not the case… EVERYTHING the media and Washington’s conventional wisdom tells you about the will of the voters is wrong. But don’t forget the Tea Party! They, too, did not respond as expected. Sure, they were more conservative than Republicans overall, but they still come across as wild-eyed socialists compared to their D.C. representatives… Welcome to the strangest world of all: Welcome to reality.”

  35. psychohistorian

    The Pepe le Phew meme is fun and potentially powerful as a political party.

    Think of how educational and undoubtedly humorous creating a public platform for it and comparing/contrasting it with the platforms from the other parties will be.

    One could have the biggest stink and/or stinker of the week or month awards.

    So, what smells bad to skunks?

  36. JPT

    I’m really liking this idea. The skunk implies a kind of non-conventional, non-violent, but still truly discomforting threat, as well as a bit of the lefty-libertarian sensibility (I.E. Don’t mess with us and we won’t mess with you, but if it comes to that, we know how to make a mess).

    Fat Cats, meet Polecats. Yeah, we’ve got your number…

  37. scott

    “All experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” Thomas Jefferson
    Yves, absolutely brilliant Skunk Party Manifesto!!
    We are all fallible and must remain humble but to be idle as our democracy is destroyed by self-aggrandizing narcissist is dishonorable!! The free market fundamentalism is another utopian scheme.

Comments are closed.