1. John

    There is a small omission in the reporting. Military veterans under 62 yrs old will see a 1% cut to their COLA in this budget proposal. This comes out to 10s of thousands of dollars in lost income over 20 yrs for many veterans. In other words, congress creates a crises to pick the pocket of pensioners while refusing to close any tax loopholes. Unfortunately, the word bipartisanship is being used to garner support for a bad bill. Excellent obfuscation. Merry Christmas!

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      One benefit is much the Iraq War vote is none of the “yes” votes will become President or go on to win state wide. Only 3 Republicans have managed to make the jump from the House to the Senate, and 2 of those were in 2002 along with the sole Democrat Blago.

      Once they have voted for military pay cuts after the years of stunts and propaganda, this vote will be on their heads for whatever ambitions they might have had.

      Its not that people mind if veterans/ (they are actual veterans these day) are screwed if its done through inflation means, but this is a direct pay cut. These yes votes won’t have veterans after that form of propaganda, but their opponents will.

      I can’t wait to see how Mark Warner votes as Virginia is both the beneficiary of government waste (most military spending) and a post-service destination for soldiers.

  2. DakotabornKansan

    Austerity is the pot of water on the stove that we frogs are swimming in.

    Why have so many persisted in the belief that the Democrats will protect us when it comes to budget cuts? The Vichy Left buys into austerity just as fervently as the Rethugs.

    Some say the Republicans have won the “Austerian War,” but it is the oligarchs who are winning. Both Republicans and Democrats serve their interests.

    Are we in deep denial about the fundamental nature of the American people?

    “The substantial gains of the left on cultural and social issues and recent electoral victories in New York and Boston have created a misleading perception among liberals that the country is moving in the same direction on economic issues. That is not the case: an ethos of self-reliance and individual responsibility continues, as it has for the past 237 years, to grip the American imagination. A switch to an ideology founded on redistribution, with economic justice as its core principle, would require a major upheaval, the likes of which we have not seen for some time.” – Thomas Edsell, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12

    So long as the suffering minorities, the poor, sick, homeless, veterans and disabled persons bear the brunt of the austerity it is okay. Besides, they don’t vote much, and those that do are on the docket to be denied suffrage.

    I dismay at the betrayal of the Democratic Party legacy. My mother used to tell me what it was like was growing up during the dust bowl and depression era. She emphasized the impact that Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the New Deal had on making their lives better and more hopeful.

    Today the social and political ideals of the New Deal have been replaced by the selective abdication of governmental responsibility for the well-being of our citizens.

    How did this happen?

    Sheldon Wolin’s Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism is a devastating critique of our government. Wolin’s thesis was that it is possible for a form of totalitarianism, different from the classical one, to evolve from a supposedly strong democracy instead of a failed one:

    “Inverted totalitarianism has emerged imperceptibly, unpremeditatedly, and in seeming unbroken continuity with the nation’s political traditions.”

    “The genius of our inverted totalitarian system lies in wielding total power without appearing to, without establishing concentration camps, or enforcing ideological uniformity, or forcibly suppressing dissident elements so long as they remain ineffectual. A demotion in the status and stature of the ‘sovereign people’ to patient subjects is symptomatic of systemic change, from democracy as a method of ‘popularizing’ power to democracy as a brand name for a product marketable at home and marketable abroad. The new system, inverted totalitarianism, is one that professes the opposite of what, in fact, it is. The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed.”

    The hour is very late. The American people have not been paying attention to what has been happening. The chances that they will take the necessary and difficult actions to avoid catastrophe are quite remote. And so shall we pass into history along with the other classic totalitarian regimes – Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Bolshevik Russia.

    This is what Chris Hedges means when he writes, “We stand on the verge of one of the bleakest periods in human history, when the bright lights of civilization will blink out and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity.”

    It is all very sad and depressing, made even more so by the complicitous betrayal of FDR’s legacy by the Democratic Party.

    Weimar redivivus?

    “Any mass movement that arises—and I believe one is coming—will be fueled, like the Occupy movement, by radicals who have as deep a revulsion for Democrats as they do for Republicans. The radicals who triumph, however, may not be progressive. Populist movements, from labor unions to an independent press to socialist third parties, have been destroyed in the United States. A protofascist movement that coalesces around a mystical nationalism, that fuses the symbols of the country with those of Christianity, that denigrates reason and elevates mass emotions will have broad appeal. It will offer to followers a leap from the deep pit of despair and frustration to the heights of utopia. It will speak in the language of violence and demonize the vulnerable, from undocumented workers to homosexuals to people of color to liberals to the poor. And this force, financed by the most retrograde elements of corporate capitalism, could usher in a species of corporate fascism in a period of economic or environmental instability.” – Chris Hedges, “Once Again—Death of the Liberal Class,” http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/once_again_–_death_of_the_liberal_class_20121112/

    1. from Mexico

      Chris Hedges said:

      “A protofascist movement that coalesces around a mystical nationalism, that fuses the symbols of the country with those of Christianity, that denigrates reason and elevates mass emotions will have broad appeal. It will offer to followers a leap from the deep pit of despair and frustration to the heights of utopia. It will speak in the language of violence and demonize the vulnerable, from undocumented workers to homosexuals to people of color to liberals to the poor. And this force, financed by the most retrograde elements of corporate capitalism, could usher in a species of corporate fascism…”

      Hedges is light years ahead of Yanis Varoufakis in his thinking. Varoufakis feins obliviousness to the fact that the Troika and Golden Dawn are playing on the same team. So instead of telling people how the cow ate the cabbage like Hedges does, Varoufakis spouts fact-free nonsense like this:

      “A Greek or a Portuguese or an Italian exit from the Eurozone will soon develop into a fragmentation of European capitalism, yielding a seriously recessionary surplus region east of the Rhine and north of the Alps while the rest of Europe is in the clasps of vicious stagflation. Who do you think will benefit from this development? A progressive Left, that will rise Phoenix-like from the ashes of Europe’s public institutions? Or the Golden Dawn Nazis, the assorted neo-fascists, the xenophobes and the spivs? I have absolutely no doubt as to which of the two will benefit from a disintegration of the Eurozone. I, for one, am not prepared to blow fresh wind into the sails of this postmodern version of the 1930s. If this means that it is we, the suitably erratic Marxists, that must try to save European capitalism from itself, so be it.”

      The sort of surrender and defeatism being homilized by Varoufakis is very dangerous, because it is this sort of appeasement that allows the rise of totalitarian regimes.

      In The Unconquerable World Jonathan Schell recounts how this occurred on three different occastions: the Jacobin Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Nazi Revolution. Speaking of the Bolshevik Revolution, he notes that “the most important data are probably the results of the national elections to the Constitutent Assembly” because they demonstrate “that in the country at large the Bolsheviks were a minority, commanding only 25 percent of the overall popular vote.”

      This pattern of minority mass support amid majority indifference (the kind of majority indifference being encouraged by Varoufakis), Schell suggests, “is an important factor in explaining the paradox that a nonviolent revolutonary overthrow was followed by an act of revolutionary foundation that depended on violence beyond all historical precedent.”

      The Troika and their partners in crime, the Golden Dawn, must be met head on, not with appeasement and indifference. A curse on the passive nihilism Varoufakis is peddling.

      1. Banger

        I admire Hedges greatly and his books should be read by everybody on the left–but I think he exaggerates in his depiction of a proto-fascist movement or even the possibility of such a movement metastasizes. Such a movement is unlikely. Why? Unlike Germany in the 30s or the Balkans in the 90s (where Hedges was traumatized) the U.S. does not have a single mythical framework to unite under. That is the great virtue of this country! It is utterly fragmented along several dimensions. The oligarchs have tried everything to whip up nationalist fervor and nothing has worked so they have settled for indifference and a new species of fatalism. Even a new recession and unemployment back up in the teens would not spark a revival of a fascist right because the most dynamic portion of the right today is not the pro-war and bigoted right of the Cold War but the pro-civil liberties libertarian right that has little interest in authoritarianism and little dictators. Most of these people want to take matters in their own hands and not defer to authority. I live among such people and there’s no way they would support any central authority.

        1. from Mexico

          Banger said:

          “[T]he right today is…the pro-civil liberties libertarian right that has little interest in authoritarianism and little dictators.”

          Oh, you mean the “pro-civil liberterties libertarian right” like Rand Paul?

          “Rand Paul isn’t a libertarian.

          Rand Paul is against my civil liberties, and those of every woman in America. He believes big government should be making our most private, personal decisions for us. Rand Paul is not only anti-choice, he embraces “personhood,” the far end of the extremist spectrum on opposing reproductive rights.

          I’m tired of (mostly male) reporters and pundits calling Paul a libertarian because women’s civil rights are somehow a second tier issue….

          As a senator, Paul has introduced the Life at Conception Act, which codifies the notion of “personhood” into federal law.

          “Personhood” is a fringe movement that would give full legal and constitutional rights to fertilized eggs under the law. It would outlaw abortion in all cases, even for victims of rape or incest. It would outlaw many forms of hormonal contraception and IUDs, and limit emergency contraception and in vitro fertilization.

          That’s not a limited-government libertarian. It’s the opposite in fact. It’s government both big enough and small enough to fit in your lady-parts and in the room with you and your doctor.

          When he introduced the bill in March, Paul said in a statement, “The Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known – that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward. The right to life is guaranteed to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence and ensuring this is upheld is the Constitutional duty of all Members of Congress.”

          Thanks to Rand Paul and his ilk, I see Egg People everywhere….

          There’s nothing libertarian about Rand Paul. He’s a standard-issue right wing extremist with a few opinions outside the Republican platform on military issues. That doesn’t make him cute, and that doesn’t make him acceptable to women voters or any voter with a belief in civil rights and civil liberties.

          Call Paul a non-interventionist if you like. Call him an anti-internationalist or opposed to defense spending. But do not call him a libertarian, because he’s not one.

          1. Banger

            I didn’t say Rand Paul, I said people I know. I talk about the people and you bring up a RP politician. Just look at the absurdity–no way personhood goes anywhere–this is just a cheap attempt at revving up religious conservatives and it’s a loosing idea that would never end up in fascism. As a matter of fact can you imagine Hitler advocating for personhood? The splits within the RP and within libertarians heavy and lite are enormous thus no chance at some united front fascist movement which was my point–I said nothing about Rand Paul.

            I’m sorry you chose not to even address my points.

            1. from Mexico

              In defending the right, the statement you made is as follows:

              “[T]he right today is…the pro-civil liberties libertarian right that has little interest in authoritarianism and little dictators.”

              The only evidence you seem to believe is necessary to back up your claim is to cite “people I know.”

              This reasoning relies on a number of faulty deductions, including:

              1) There is the reliance on anecdotal evidence.

              2) Your empirical claim is based on evidence impossible for anyone but yourself to disprove.

              3) There is an error in composition. It assumes that characteristics or beliefs of some of a group (“people I know”) applies to the entire group (“the right today”).

              4) Rand Paul is certainly in the group (“the right”). And yet I cited evidence that he is not a “pro-civil liberteries liberertarian.” In fact, he very much is an “authoritarian” and a “little dictator” when it comes to some issues, such as the quesiton of abortion.

              So please enlighten me. Point to verifiable examples of these “pro-civil liberties libertarian” right-wingers. And even if you can point to one or some, which so far you have failed to do, it still doesn’t make your statement true — that “the right today is…the pro-civil liberties libertarian right.”

              1. Banger

                This is silly. Why do you suppose I think the right is made up of one faction? It contains several as is obvious. One of them is an anti-authoritarian faction that has nothing to do with Rand Paul. You turn simple discourse into an inquisition. How did you become so fierce about a very simple observation? Why be mean spirited? How is that helpful. I never abused you why abuse me?

                I repeat there is a faction of the right that is anti-authoritarian and there are (because I know them) even political operatives who are as well. What do you make of someone like Alex Jones and the various figures that appear on his shows?

                1. from Mexico

                  If you’re going to mount a defense of the right by proclaiming that “[T]he right today is…the pro-civil liberties libertarian right that has little interest in authoritarianism and little dictators.” it’s going to take a little bit more evidence to substantiate that claim than the flimsy evidence you have cited. It’s a sweeping claim, and the citatation of “people I know” just doesn’t cut it.

                2. Me

                  Just because they might be against authority in theory doesn’t mean they are in practice. If they, for example, support privatizing vast amounts of government services and resources, they aren’t handing those resources and services over to mom and pop stores. They are handing over those services to the highest bidders (or the politically connected). That will be the group or groups of people with the most money. The end result will be the creation of monopolies or oligopolies, in other words private concentrated power. That is why all mass privatizations are corrupt and create a concentration of private power. Reality does matter.

                  They might not like (public) centralized power in theory but I have yet to meet one would was willing to deal with concentrated private power. They, without exception in my experience, assume the problem away. Take inflation. When they talk about inflation they always talk about the Fed, the creation of actual dollars and cents, gold or whatever. Do they talk about private credit creation? If they do, what do they do about private credit creation’s impact on inflation, which is larger than actual dollars? How in the world do they deal with that without the state? Not possible in reality.

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          I would contend we are operating under American-style fascism. Obama, the educated son of a mixed rate couple, George W., the drunk who lived in his father’s shadow who in some ways surpassed his old man after finding redemption, Billy, overcame having an absentee father, and Ronnie who largely spread stories plucked from odd moments to paint America’s place as a land blessed by God and having intrinsic value.

          The U.S. can never rid itself of elections, the appearance of free speech, and be too ethnically pure, but the upfront costs of presenting alternatives in elections are nearly impossible for non-self funding citizens, the main media outlets are controlled by a handful of figures limiting speech, and despite the lack of an ethnically zeitgeist, we have made up stories (Homeland, the shining city on the hill, mimicked Rome which was multi-ethnic, we have white washed our history which can best be seen by the corporate MLK imagery) to create the sense of an American ethnicity where figures such as MLK belong to all Americans even the warmongers. Our media is full of fraudulent stories, and like the Nazis claiming every famous German as a secret Nazi such as Nietzche and his ubermensch, we need to look no further than last week when every world leader lined up to show the picture of the time they met Mandela. They will do what they can to claim the glory of the past as their own.

          Even now, the Congressional answer to political pressure with the goal of accomplishing deeds is to protect the MIC on the backs of the American people. The Government is completely controlled by corporations and uses myths to control us.

          The danger isn’t a descent into fascism as much as local theocracies springing up from the inevitable failure of the fascist state. Even now, local mega churches wield considerable voting blocks and actual welfare operations almost independent of government intervention at least officially.. People who depend on these outfits aren’t going to show loyalty to a government when it abandons them. We can’t have a Gestapo because everyone has seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, so the efforts to detect enemies of the state (citizens) have to take other forms or look different because like fascists we are confused by shiny things.

          The more obvious sins of fascism are ignored because of the size of the country (I don’t care what happens in Florida one day and Washington the next) and many of our founding myths have to be embraced to be seen as legitimate, and those founding myths do prevent the full blown descent. Its the difference between worshiping Charlemagne and the Constitution. One was a man long since dead, and the other can easily be checked.

        3. Nathanael

          Banger: so you’re predicting Civil War II, basically. I also agree that this is more likely than a proper fascist dictatorship. This doesn’t make me any happier!

      2. susan the other

        It is difficult to know for whom Varoufakis is a quisling. He is so eloquent I almost buy in to his analysis. The most persuasive point for me was his explanation of the extreme difficulty involved in re-establishing the drachma if Greece were to exit. More chaos than just sticking it out. But that shouldn’t be so with a sovereign currency. Most of us humans are on a par with domesticated animals who go along with the contract because we get fed and sheltered…. so what if we also get slaughtered. Everybody has to die. Today on Paul Craig Roberts there was an eye opener. He accused NATO and especially the US of fomenting a world war with both China and Russia and that we are now relentlessly focused on this goal. He said the only country that can stop this is Germany because Germany can exit the EU and NATO, stopping us cold.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I should intervene in comments more when people criticize Varoufakis for not advocating that Greece exit the Eurozone. His view is well informed, that the costs will in fact exceed the benefit.

          Even Euro-skepticks like Ambrose Evans-Pritchard deem Italy as the only country that is in a position to make an exit viable. It has a high savings rate and a primary budget surplus.

          The problem is that Greece is far from being an autarky. It needs among other things, petrol and medicine from abroad. The currency collapse when drachmas were first launched would lead to a near absence of both. How do you run a country with no gas?

          And thanks to the various restructurings, Greece’s debt is now euro-denominated and under UK (I believe) law, no longer Greek law. So it can’t redenominate the debt in drachma either. It would thus have to (in the eyes of the Troika) voluntarily default. That sort of thing would at a minimum lead to sanctions, worsening the problems outlined in the first paragraph.

          There are even more issues…..but these alone are enough to impose even more, not less, suffering on the Greeks.

          1. The Dork of Cork

            Greece bought 50,000 new private cars between Jan & Oct(not a very rational act for a country under embargo) …the truly strange thing about about euro periphery countries is that they are not even trying to reduce their force feeding program of euro core entrepot products.
            Iceland buys a much higher amount of oil per capita
            The difference is they put the majority of their diesel consumption into internal Industry.(fishing).

            As I am sure Yanis would agree the inter European consumption / distribution / consumption has already partially broken down.

            Whats the point of remaining within that evil construct.
            When you stop free banks from creating debt you will soon find a surplus from which you must print money to consume what is produced.

            1. The Dork of Cork

              Yes it could work
              We live in a oil standard rather then gold standard world.
              If so – lets pour crude oil down their throats.

              It will be a sort of modern Marcus Licinius Crassus moment.

          2. The Dork of Cork

            What has merely happened is this.
            If we look at the UK balance of payments we can see the UK (london really)previously earned income via the credit / oil scarcity mechanism until the crash.

            Now they earn less income from the EU and merely burn the surplus oil in the only manner they know how.

            Why do we not give them a even bigger surplus of oil – so much infact that it will destroy what remains of their once green and pleasant land.

          3. from Mexico

            @ Yves Smith

            You infer people shouldn’t “criticize Varoufakis for not advocating that Greece exit the Eurozone,” that his “view is well informed, that the costs will in fact exceed the benefit.”

            So what does that mean, that Greece should remain an impoverished colony of the Eurozone center forever? And assuming Varoufakis’s cost-benefit analysis is true, are freedom, national sovereignty and autonomy worth nothing? Is instrumental rationality always the best course?

            Sometimes freedom comes at a cost. For instance, I can name a number of Latin American countries which have paid, and are still paying, an enormous price for trying to wiggle out from under the jackboot of the transnational capitalist class.

            I want to know why is it that Varoufakis is so anxious to abdicate the issue of freedom to the right, to Golden Dawn? Are we so quick to forget what John Maynard Keynes wrote in The Consequences of the Peace, that “Men will not always die quietly,” and that “If we aim deliberately at the impoverishment of Central Europe, vengeance, I dare predict, will not limp”?

            Ah! But of course! In Varoufakis’s essay he demolishes Keynes, telling us “Keynes was an enemy of the Left.” Silly me! That explains it all.

            But seriously, here’s what’s really going on: By outflanking Keynes on the left, with his claim to Marxism, Varoufakis can trap Keynes in a crossfire and take pot shots at him from the left.

            Of course there’s layer upon layer of irony here, irony which is not lost upon the more observant witnesses to this obscene spectacle. Varoufakis’s excoration of Keynes, for instance, is from a man who writes that “it is the Left’s historic duty…to save European capitalism.” And Varoufakis is lambasting a man who said capitalism is “the astonishing belief that the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow or other work for the best results in the best of all possible worlds.” Keynes also wrote in The General Theory that “The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes.” Wow! That’s some “enemy of the Left.”

            Later you write: “And thanks to the various restructurings, Greece’s debt is now euro-denominated and under UK (I believe) law, no longer Greek law.” To which I say: So what? Argentina’s foreign debt was also denominated in dollars. The way out of the dilemma has a name. It’s called debt default or debt restructuring.

            Now granted, as you add, this “would at a minimum lead to sanctions, worsening the problems outlined in the first paragraph.” “There are even more issues…..but these alone are enough to impose even more, not less, suffering on the Greeks.”

            Well I’m sure that’s true. One only has to ask the people of Cuba. Or Iraq. Or Iran. But again, are freedom and self-determination worth nothing in this calculation?

            1. John Jones

              I worry that Greece will go towards Golden Dawn if Syriza comes to power and doesn’t manage to change how Europe runs things and then doesn’t leave the Eurozone in response.

              I worry Greeks will see Golden Dawn as the only alternative left because they are in the press more then a small party like E.P.A.M headed by Dimitris Kazakis who advocates leaving the E.U and Eurozone bringing back democracy declaring the memoranda illegal and tearing it up etc whatever it takes.

              Yanis is a Syriza supporter so his not gonna advocate leaving the E.U or Eurozone as they don’t

              The question is if and when Syriza have their shot at power what will they do when they are told by Europe to stick to the memoranda? Will they leave the Eurozone or will they get on there knees and continue with the same and say yes to anything Europe tells them?

              I’d like to think I am wrong and that they can change Europe but i doubt it.

          4. Nathanael

            “The problem is that Greece is far from being an autarky. It needs among other things, petrol and medicine from abroad. The currency collapse when drachmas were first launched would lead to a near absence of both. How do you run a country with no gas?”

            Well, you make an all-solar all-electric economy, which is quite practical in the long run, but it’s a bit late for Greece to do that now. :sigh:

            If it weren’t for ethnic bigotry, Greece could join the Turkish economic zone and be a Turkish dependency, as it was for hundreds and hundreds of years. I’m sure the Turks would provide them with cheap gas. But we know that won’t happen…

            1. John Jones

              So because Greece was under the Turks for hundreds of years it should go back? Because it was such a great time for the Greeks wasn’t it? Nothing Europe has done to Greece so far even compares to what Greeks and Greece lost under the Turks.

              Further more I don’t know were you get this garbage:

              “The fact is that Greece has always been a much more dependent, less self-reliant country than Iceland — since its independence from Turkey was achieved by a bunch of foreign armies back in the 19th century. It’s never been self-reliant.”

              This couldn’t be further from the truth.

        2. Praedor

          The answer to any such nonsense about how hard it would be for Greece to bail on the EU is “Iceland”. Iceland gave a stiff middle finger to the bankster criminals of the EU and are better off for it. NEVER give up your sovereign currency. NEVER hand the controls of your economy, the social welfare of your people, to foreign banksters (or domestic banksters either). The proper place for big finance and banks is JAIL or swinging from the end of a rope from a streetlamp post.

          Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal should all bail out and form a free block with Iceland and some nations of Latin America. Tell the US and European robber barons to eat their own shit.

          1. Nathanael

            The fact is that Greece has always been a much more dependent, less self-reliant country than Iceland — since its independence from Turkey was achieved by a bunch of foreign armies back in the 19th century. It’s never been self-reliant.

            Spain and Portugal are different matters entirely. They can and should ditch the euro — or at least repudiate the euro-denominated debts — and they’ll be fine if they do so, apart from issues of computing the train fares! The problem is that Spain and Portugal are in the hands of right-wing governments.

    2. Jim Haygood

      The genius of our inverted totalitarian system lies in wielding total power without appearing to.The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed.

      It is all very sad and depressing, made even more so by the complicitous betrayal of FDR’s legacy by the Democratic Party. — DBK

      Well said … but it was FDR who subverted the Supreme Court into a rubber stamp for the expansion of federal power, quadrupled the fedgov’s economic footprint (from 5 to 20 percent of GDP), and whose successor Truman made permanent the wartime security state (e.g., the CIA) and the U.S. global military empire.

      Far from betraying Roosevelt’s legacy, our inverted totalitarian government IS his legacy.

      1. Nathanael

        The Supreme Court was subverted into a rubber stamp for federal expansion of power sometime before the Dred Scott decision. Learn your history.

  3. from Mexico

    67% of Americans support more taxes on the richest 1/5 of Americans (households which marke in excess of $250,000/year) and the closing of tax loopholes for corporations.

    Likewise, polls show overwhelming percentages of Americans in favor of cutting military spending.

    And yet low taxes for the rich, tax loopholes, and bloated military spending are sacrosanct for 99% of our politicians, regardless of which side of the aisle they hail from.

    How do they get away with calling this democracy?

    1. Ché Pasa

      Well, it’s a democracy for the rich, the plutocrats, the kleptocrats and the oligarchs, isn’t it? They get to debate and then decide policy all they want, don’t they? They get endless hearings by the politicians just by picking up the phone or having staff send an email.

      From their standpoint, it’s quite an excellent democracy…


    2. MikeNY

      I perhaps understand the reflexive veneration of the military by the plutocrats and their minions, the political class: they need it to protect them from the pitchforks.

      I am continually mystified at the reflexive veneration by ordinary citizens. I can only think to ascribe it to some combination of American Exceptionalism and sentimentality, i.e., since we’ve sent hundreds of thousands of young people overseas to die over the last 50 years, our cause *must* be just, and those in uniform are heroes. Otherwise, the sacrifice is too beastly to contemplate.

      1. from Mexico

        Reinhold Niebuhr lamented that phenomenon too. The modern worker, he wrote, “disavows the nation only if it has thrust him out of its system of cultural inheritances and economic benefits in the most obvious terms.”

        Niebuhr wrote that in 1932, but he also expressed hope that greater “social intelligence” on the part of workers in the future would “prompt disillusionmnet without the immediate lesson of complete disinheritance.”

        Those hopes, however, have proven quixotic. “Marx may have said that the proletarian has no country,” Hannah Arendt observed; “it is well known that the proletarians have never shared this point of view.”

        “The lower social classes are especially susceptible to nationalism, chavinism, and imperialistic policies,” she added. “This was true even of Martin Luther King. The fact that the army gives the lower social classes certain opportunities for education and vocational training naturally also plays a role here.”

        1. MikeNY

          Yes, Arendt is surely right, especially in your last paragraph. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could extend those same opportunities for advancement by, say, building a decent passenger rail network in the US, or razing abandoned homes in Detroit? I mean, rather than bombing foreign countries…

          I know: I’m a dreamer.

          1. hunkerdown

            Houses are being razed in Detroit, in the state’s sweet, careless time, but gentrification never brings advancement (a word one step below “progress” on the scale of mealy-mouthed smarm and one step above it on the scale of neoliberal BS); it merely clears the field of the low scorers and designated losers.

            1. MikeNY

              I wasn’t thinking of gentrification, rather, of community gardens or even of fields and trees. I’d call it environment remediation, I guess. I’d rather pay people to do that than to bomb Afghanistan.

      2. cnchal

        Propaganda works. No mystery at all.
        There is a constant stream of “military heroes” stories in the MSM. At every major football game and stock car race we have the heroes in their “awesome technology” fighter jets doing their friendly fly overs. We must fight the enemy – whomever and where ever they are. Imagine being on the receiving end of such an angry machine,
        The fans in the stands are impressed.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Personally, I can’t wait for the opponents of the “yes” votes on this to run the anti-veteran attack ads against this Congress. They will try to “fix” the “mistake” but the perception damage is already done.

        2. Banger

          Yet those same people did not wave the flag for a new war in Syria. There is hope–the MIC can maintain itself even without there being any threat. Since they have the guns we have to pay tribute or face the guns–that is the great unspoken reality no one wants to think about. The military is capable of creating a crisis or series of crisis that it can come in and “solve” as has happened since civilizations began.

    3. Banger

      Because Americans can vote for the politicians that serve in legislatures. If the Americans actually wanted change (which fundamentally the don’t) they would vote it in. Yes, there are enormous blocks towards political change but if there was true sentiment for change it would happen.

      Why are people acquiescing to this situation? Human beings do not like instability and change unless the crisis is overwhelming. Those of us who know what is going on have a duty to keep telling the truth–but we can’t force people to accept it.

      1. from Mexico


        If you believe our illustrious political class represents the needs and opinions of the majority of Americans, I have a nice piece of ocean-front property in Arizona I’m sure would interest you.

        1. Banger

          You haven’t answered why citizens elect these people to Congress and other offices. The pols don’t have to advocate for all the things the constituents only just enough to get elected. If there was a powerful counter-movement to the orthodox political consensus then we’d see change to a greater degree than we do now.

          1. EmilianoZ

            Yves posted a link to a piece from Adam Curtis:

            Curtis argues that we’re in a situation similar to the 1900s when the robber barons seemed to have completely stifled democracy. He claims that muck-racking journalism changed public opinion, paving the way for Theodore Roosevelt’s anti-trust laws.

            What’s different today? Was the situation so much worse in the 1900s that the populace was unanimous for change? Wasn’t the big O elected because he represented change?

            1. Nathanael

              Nothing is different today, really. People forget how slow the advances against the robber barons were; the “robber baron” problem was being decried in 1876, and the first modest steps to rein them in weren’t until after 1900 — and those were *modest*. With this as a historical parallel, we should be moving into the Woodrow Wilson era right about now, and should get a god-awful 1920s period next, followed by the BIG crash.

  4. Adriannzinha

    I’d say it is more akin to privatized profits and socialized losses for the ultra rich. And of course we foot the bill for the latter.

    The minimum wage posturing of Obama and his cohorts is nothing more. There is virtually no chance for any such legislation to pass but that is not its intent. Rather it is to provide prop up Obama whose disaster streaks (NSA, Obamacare, etc) have left him looking rather dubious in the eyes of many.

    His lot have no problem making massive cuts in food stamps and job benefits all the while they wave the fictitious banner of being working class champs.

    I’ve stated before how his administration is on a program of incredible austerity even at a time when the economic fortunes of the vast majority have sunk. Don’t expect any of this to change regardless of whether Democrats parade business as usual (Hillary) or Obama 2.0, now available in Female version (Warren).

    I’m hoping eventually the pitchforks will come out – as they have in so many other parts of the world but glaringly not here – as more workers and families get punished by government austerity, machine and automation displacement of labor, and the corporate behemoth that rules this country.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      By next month, the country will largely be ungovernable. Once these Congressman are face to face with angry people over this proposed budget and ACA (the “failure” of ACA) being more than just a website problem they are going to worry. Parents with sick kids put faith in the Democrats which the Democrats took for granted while screwing those same people. They aren’t going to be quiet.

      The Democrats who saw Occupy as an embarrassment which needed to be crushed by a coordinated police/military assault will pine for the days of Occupy because people get really angry when promises have been repeatedly broken. Obama and the Dems broke one big promise which was made the entire first term of Obama: Obama just needed to be re-elected.

    2. Alexa

      Agree with most everything that you said.

      However, one thing puzzles–how is Warren “Obama 2.0?”

      Unless you’re simply referring to her not being “that liberal.” I’m sure that I would agree with that characterization.

      (And, don’t get me wrong–I believe that Warren is simply a Democratic “stalking horse,” because the usual corporatist suspects won’t fly in 2016.)

      IOW, Establishment Dems will have to use some populist “gimmick” to excite the liberal Base–what’s left of it!


      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        “how is Warren “Obama 2.0?””

        For the most part, she is just a non-entity. Yes, she wants some credit card reforms (some hyperbole), but I think the issue with Warren is much of her support comes from projection which was a hallmark of Obama, Hillary, and even the people who think Biden is just a lovable doofus. Further down, “Andrew Watts” makes the point that the search for a messiah is the problem, and when I hear discussion of Warren, I see a similar blind faith without the questioning of her past associations. At this moment for her to be able to win my vote, I would need to see an explanation for standing by Obama as long as she has because she isn’t Governor FDR, Senator LBJ, or Mr. Jefferson* which isn’t to say she couldn’t be. Why can’t we have a Lincoln with detailed thought out views on numerous subjects? He wasn’t elected because he seemed like a swell guy at the convention in 1860. I understand the rubes don’t care, but we should demand this.

        Warren doesn’t need to challenge Obama by name, but she might try to push for the state waivers for Single-Payer to be removed tomorrow or pass a letter around to the Social Security Democrats. She might propose a modern Truman commission to find out where there might be some waste, but the absence of this is a problem. The Democratic Party isn’t a functional outfit where we can wait on Carl Levin or Nancy Pelosi to do the right thing because they won’t, so the “good” Democrats need to put the onus on Pelosi and her enablers or the Democrats will just go through the motions again.. This is how she might demonstrate she is serious about change and not merely a lesser person with an important job, a Gerry Ford if you will as opposed to say an Augustus.

        1. Alexa

          Agree on Warren.

          Here’s a link to my post entitled, “Democratic Party Populist Or Stalking Horse?” from yesterday.


          You won’t find anyone in the progressive blogosphere more puzzled and dismayed by the propensity of many liberals to seemingly “fall for” corporatist Democrats, time and time again.

          Warren is probably a little left of most DLC Dems on a couple of issues–but not enough to suit me, LOL!

          Anyway, IMHO, she is not even being considered as a potential candidate.

          Does anyone truly believe that our corporatist Democratic Party would allow any Democrat who said what Warren did [on the floor of the Senate] to actually be nominated as their Presidential candidate?

          I’d believe that “pigs could fly” first!

          Indeed, her speech tells me that her function in the Democratic Party is much the same as Senator Sanders–to mollify liberals and keep them from deserting ship before the midterm and 2016 elections.

          Heck, I’ve consistently advocated for–as the late Pastor Jerry Falwell was known to say–“plucking the vine” of ALL corporatist Dems (which is what the Republican Party did regarding liberals).

          One or two liberal views on a wedge issue, does not a liberal make!

          Period. End Of Story. Full Stop.


        2. Brooklin Bridge

          Excellent points. Warren could do this or that but she won’t, except perhaps around the edges. Her relationship to Obama – the acquiescence by-in-large, the lack of rebellion – proves it definitively. And even if she would, she probably couldn’t. Over the last thirty years, it has become much harder and possibly even impossible for a political “messiah” to get through the machinery of our political process. The owners control the process of elections now before, during and after and mistakes are rare indeed. Representative government in the grand ol’ USA with the advent of technology has much the same status as home ownership. It’s a brilliant way get taxes and prodigious amounts of effort for just about nothing real in return, and less even of that than last year.

          The problem both political parties face is how to give us less this year than last AND less this year than next, both at once, and to keep that going year after year. But It just doesn’t work. They can’t have it both ways and it’s killing them.

  5. Banger

    This is the best deal that could be had as the Congressman interviewed said. It points to the obvious, i.e., the left, despite the support of the majority of Americans is barely a force in American poltics and, in the end, has only itself to blame for this. As I’ve said for almost a decade, if you don’t play hardball politics you don’t get to sit at the table. When I was a youth, despite the jihad against us by the national security state we made Nixon tremble–what WTF happened? That is the question we ought to be asking.

    1. Andrew Watts


      National decline was never going to be easy to navigate. Things were looking optimistic in the late 90s and early 00s. It looked like a national populist rising and the anti-globalization movement was going to overturn the Washington Consensus. At the ’99 WTO meetings in Seattle protesters were brutally assaulted and fought back the police in the streets. While the trade negotiators failed to reach a new trade deal. This was a source of hope for the future as the meeting was successfully disrupted. It didn’t take long for all that energy and organization to fall apart in the wake of 9/11.

      In a sense the neoconservatives won a small victory as that event brought the nation closer together and political dissent was successfully suppressed. But only for a short period of time. Who really knows what lays in store for us? The Establishment when it isn’t busy squabbling amidst itself seems to genuinely care about how Washington DC is perceived both abroad and domestically. It’s lost a great deal of credibility among our allies, the world in general, and the American people.

      1. Banger

        The Project for a New American Century was very clear about the need of a “new Pearl Harbor” that would unite a fractured country and avoid the descent of American culture into hedonism. 9/11 was a very convenient event. Particularly interesting was that there was no forensic based investigation of the events but I won’t go there. Things would have been different for sure.

        1. Andrew Watts

          Yup. There’s probably no good that could come of that discussion anyway. It also ignores what transpired directly after it and the consequences we’re living with today. The neocons were enamored with ancient Sparta. What they didn’t know besides that the end of history wasn’t an actual point in history was that without successful militaristic policies Sparta was nothing.

    2. neo-realist

      In possible of the left, the numbers aren’t there in congress as far as a true left to win the legislative battles–You’ve got for the most part, hard tea party right, mainstream republicans (which are ever so slightly left of the tea party) and center right dems, which far outnumber any if at all true lefties in the congress.

      I kind of wish the Greens would get their act together and start running candidates for congress, as well as other local and state offices.

    3. neo-realist

      Meant to say in possible defense of the left.

      And as a bit of a silver lining, SS appeared to have remained intact from cuts.

  6. kemo sabe

    Excellent points. I wish people would start jumping on bandwagons — last time it was the savior Obama. Latest sensation is unproven Warren. Talk is cheap. Deeds counts. Show me a consistent long term record and maybe I’ll vote for that person. We need to look for long term solutions that will get rid of the two party duopoly and rebuild our democracy for the people and not the rich.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      “Latest sensation is unproven Warren.”

      Fortunately, she is far too banal to move beyond a segment of support in the blog-o-sphere. Obama oozed charisma and told a great story. If Warren is going to use her gender, Hillary will clean her clock. Warren’s only way to get away from Hillary is to be something completely different which Obama wasn’t.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        This. If Democratic voters had merely demanded more of Obama instead of staring at photos of the first family, Obama would have produced better results because his primary driving force is his legacy.

        1. Andrew Watts

          Maybe. I’ve never been of the opinion that Obama has had much of a choice concerning foreign policy issues. Look at how easily the Iran negotiations were derailed by feuding factions within the Establishment. Even though most of the American people want an agreement.

      2. Andrew Watts

        Oops, my comment didn’t go through in it’s entirety.

        “Maybe the search for heroes and messiahs is a part of the problem.” But Americans have historically always had major social and political figures to rally around. It wasn’t just a matter of how they succeeded or failed at maintaining the faith of their followers.

      3. Nathanael

        It’s not so much “heroes” or “messiahs” people are looking for.

        The correct word is “representatives”. Or “figureheads”, if you like. If the people lead, the leaders will follow… but we can’t seem to get leaders who WILL follow, if you see my point.

    2. Alexa

      Spot on, kemo sabe. But corporatist Establishment Dems (DLC/Third Way/No Lables types) almost have to be in a panic.

      They could have their clocks cleaned in 2016, if the ACA has not “turned around” greatly, IMO.

      So Establishment Dems really have no choice but to use Warren (or someone like her–a “fresh face”) as a “stalking horse” to beat the so-called liberal drum on issues–from social security to subsidized college ed.

      Lately, poll ratings have plummeted among the youth, white women (both college educated and non-college educated) per “The Press Pool,” and I heard this morning on C-Span that even among black youth, Dem poll ratings are dropping like lead.

      Senator Mary Landrieu (LA) has even had to adopt a new model for her Senatorial campaign. She is an extreme right-wing (DLC/Third Way/Blue Dog/No Labels) Democrat, as I’m sure everyone here knows.

      Now, she’s on the stump talking like she sports “love beads and peace signs.”

      We’ll see where that gets her in Louisiana. (It can work if the organizing in black communities is “top notch,” I suppose.)

      Heard a National Journal reporter say that Landrieu and other Blue Dog Senators whose seats are at risk, can no longer run as they have in the past.

      IOW, an openly corporatist Dem will not likely cut it in 2016.

      Too many years of austerity, and destruction of the proverbial “middle class.”

      Which makes sense, in a way. Heard political handicapper Charlie Cook the other day on C-Span, when asked “How does it look for Democrats, regarding the “Reagan Democrat” voters?

      He laughed, and replied: “There are no Reagan Democrats–they are called Republicans, today.”


      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        “But corporatist Establishment Dems (DLC/Third Way/No Lables types) almost have to be in a panic.”

        Are they? They strike me as so arrogant and poorly educated*. I think they are still surrounded by enough cultists that they haven’t faced reality yet, but the next round of town halls is going to be fun. They have been successfully lying as a unit for so long, I don’t think they grasp the extent of their lies and how people aren’t lining up to vote for them.

        My Senator, Mark Warner, hasn’t had to defend many of his positions, but he’s at the point where there should be results. Wait and see isn’t going to work anymore, but I’m not certain the elite are there yet.

        I’m not suggesting there will be a revolution, but change is often seen in retrospect as inevitable but the top doesn’t see it until after they have joined the dust heap. Ugh, I guess we will be seeing more of Obama’s speeches in the near future. Oh well, the “Psych” musical is on tonight.

        *A relative term. To be more precise, they lack a healthy love of learning and problem solving, or they misunderstand how one achieves “Greatness” and have confused it with titles instead of the words of Benjamin Disraeli who said, “Nurture your mind with great thoughts for you will never go any higher than you think.” This is why proponents of incremental steps never go anywhere or achieve anything and dismiss dreamers as unicorn chasers because dreamers have surpassed them before anything is even done.

        1. Alexa

          You could be correct–it’s just my take because they did not go through with cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

          I am convinced that they are worried (and ought to be) over the fiasco that the ACA has become.

          And corporatist Dems have been salivating over getting these cuts for several years–it’s not just PBO’s goal, unfortunately.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            “over the fiasco that the ACA has become.”

            Like all great leaders, I think they have chosen to buy into the idea that the failure of ACA is website based because to acknowledge the other issues admits to the economic problems and that ACA has been legislation for three years which means even if they were mistaken three years ago, a mistake has morphed into malfeasance to avoid responsibility.

            When we consider the effects of mass delusion, I expect the Democrats to blame the website for 3 more months.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      When sequester backfired, Obama didn’t have a clue about to proceed. To be fair, who would? Of course, only morons would come up with sequester as a strategy in the first place.

      I think Catfood Commissions and anything with Social Security and the current Congress is too toxic to say out loud. Even the Obot cultists can break from the stupor for a moment to recognize Grand Bargains with this Congress are bad.

      This budget bill came out of no where, and I think they wanted to use the ACA debacle to cover the restoration of military spending when no one was looking because if this bill enters the public discourse the GOP elite and the Democrats sans the 4 or 5 good ones lose, the servants of the super wealthy lose. No one wants to lose in a wave year because there are only so many board jobs available for losers of elections especially when they hit the street at the same time. Dodd and Lieberman types retired.

      1. Alexa

        PBO and Dems have played their hands “to the letter,” IMO.

        Yes, they deferred moving on Social Security and Medicare cuts–for now. Don’t believe for a moment that it is off-the-table. Expect them to move on it immediately after the midterms–or possibly a cut or two in Medicare during the “debt ceiling” faux crisis next year.

        Not to be contentious, but their “deal” did not quite come out of nowhere.

        In part, it came from the Bowles-Simpson proposal entitled “The Moment Of Truth.”

        The link is below:


        Certainly the portion of the “deal” that dealt with cutting federal civilian service and military retirements, came out of Section IV, 4.1, Other Mandatory Policies, beginning on Page 44 of the proposal.

        For that matter, the 3-year wage Federal Civilian Employee pay freeze was part of this proposal, too. It is on P, 26, Discretionary Spending Cuts, 1.10.3. I have seen any number of Federal employees who are not aware of this. They solely blame Republicans.

        And there are several other facets of the Budget deal that I’m pretty certain can be found in this proposal. (Sorry, a bit pushed to track the rest down.)

        I followed the retirement cuts because they stand to hit close to home. ;-)

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          I think you are spot on Alexa. They will not give up. On the one hand you have politicians who have been corrupted or hobbled across the board. And make no mistake, that is a prerequisite for “election”. On the other, you have citizens who by-in-large are are in too much of a near constant surgically precise state of trauma to wake up to the fact that democracy has been lost for some time.

          At best the process can be slowed down by accidents and vagaries of their (owners and pols) own greed, or by extreme efforts of small groups of voters on specific issues, but it will not be stopped.

          1. Alexa

            Agree, BB, that:

            At best the process can be slowed down by accidents and vagaries of their (owners and pols) own greed, or by extreme efforts of small groups of voters on specific issues, but it will not be stopped.

            Of course, we must continue to “make noise” about it–can’t stop that, or cease to push back on the neoliberal agenda.

            But I do draw the line at voting for “LOTE” candidates. Just look where we are now!

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          True, but the Obots have a harder time explaining why cuts to pensions are good to Democratic-type voters than say defending Ben Bernanke’s QE infinity. Every day, there are less Obots in general, and the low info voters do learn things through osmosis. When Obama was popular, more of his propaganda was spread on its own, so the Obots had a willing audience ready to hear from “Dear Leader.” Except for Obots, who is discussing the wonders of ACA? Not the people losing their insurance.

          Its much harder to explain how low interest rates will result in rich assholes buying everything and charging exorbitant rent then it is to explain how it makes it cheaper!!!.

          I probably should limited myself to low-info voters who do pretty well considering the propaganda used against them.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            Every day, there are less Obots in general

            NotTimothyGeithner, where do you get this? Fear of loosing what small bits and pieces of the wreck one still has is what keeps the train wreck wrecking. Are Obots really disappearing, or are they are simply becoming more intransigent and less willing to discuss?

  7. Synopticist

    It’s so depressing seeing Paul Ryan taken seriously. I’m not actually sober enough to bother watching the report or reading the comments of people like FM or Bangar or NTG , guys who’s views I respect, but the very fact that that the Ryan, that totla charlatan, is dealing with the dems on a grown-up basis, man, we are so f*cked.

  8. VietnamVet

    Excellent Post and Comments.

    The shocks and dislocations are becoming stronger and harder to hide behind media propaganda. We know someone who has killed themselves because of the economy and we have seen the damage from recent storms. America has not disengaged from its Forever War. Wedding Parties are still blown apart in Yemen. Congress is about to pass and the President sign an Austerity budget that screws everyone except the rich and corporations.

    Lexus Lanes and Charter Schools proliferate. Insurance is unaffordable. Debt shackles the young.

    We are trying to make sense of the senseless. It is easier to believe that government is evil and greed is good. The alternative is to admit that Trans-National Plutocrats have seized control of the Western governments. Their purpose is to privatize wealth and socialize risk. This cannot continue. There will be a people’s revolt when the suffering becomes unbearable; fighting again, for government by and for the people. The only question is if the radicals will seize control as they did during the French and Russian revolutions.

    There is one big wild card. The wealthy still live on one earth. The USA, China, Russia, or Climate Change can obliterate us all; rich and poor. When Vladimir Putin said “Nyet”; Barrack Obama immediately backed down from bombing Syria. This is why the pivot to Asia is nonsense. The USA and its war mongers cannot start a war with People’s Republic of China and its billion citizens, trillions in U.S. Treasury bills, and thousands of nuclear armed ICBMs.

    1. Propertius

      China doesn’t have “thousands of nuclear armed ICBMs”. They have perhaps 250 warheads total (more than the UK but almost certainly fewer than France) – enough to deter a superpower attack or overpower their neighbors, but nowhere near enough to launch a first strike of their own.

  9. Chris

    There is no austerity for the MIC and the beltway bandits. Only for those unlucky enough to have the connections to get a cushy gig feeding at the trough of massive military overspending.

    When push comes to shove, note how both parties throw their bases under the bus. This time it was the tea partiers turn to be road kill for the establishment, who were probably getting a little too uncomfortable with sequester cuts falling heavily on defense. But don’t forget just around the same time of year in 2010 it was progressives who got tire tracks over their backs as Pelosi and Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts, guaranteeing higher deficits and laying the ground for the sequester.

    Note also how quickly Democrats backed off extending unemployment benefits. Perhaps Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul could team up for a filibuster in the Senate to embarrass gutless hacks like Murray and Ryan.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      ” Perhaps Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul could team up for a filibuster ”

      Besides their role as distractions, the filibuster is a Democratic Party operating agreement to create a union of Southern Democrats and National Democrats to keep the majority in exchange for leaving the South out of national policies and not to mess with Jim Crow.

      If they want to pass this legislation, all that needs to happen is 50 Senators to vote for it with the VP’s vote. The filibuster is a gentlemen’s agreement and nothing more. Also, Frank Kapra movies suck.

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