Bill Black: After 30 Years of Throwing Working People Under the Bus, Democratic Party’s “Centrist” Leaders Remain Clueless About Voter Revenge

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

On December 10, 2016, a New York Times article entitled “Democrats Have a New Message: It’s the Economy First” that unintentionally revealed that the Party’s “centrist” leadership and the paper remain clueless about how to improve the economy and why the “centrist” leadership needs to end its long war against the working class. This is how the paper explained the five “centrist” leaders’ framing of the problem.

It was a blunt, plain-spoken set of senators who gathered last Monday at the Washington home of Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, dining on Chinese food as they vented frustration about the missteps of the Democratic Party.

To this decidedly centrist group, the 2016 election was nothing short of a fiasco: final proof that its national party had grown indifferent to the rural, more conservative areas represented by Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Jon Tester of Montana, who attended the dinner. All face difficult re-election races in 2018.

This non-centrist group was a gathering of five New Democrats. President Obama self-identified himself as a New Democrat. The Clintons and Al Gore are leaders of the New Democrats. The leadership of the Democratic National Committee was, and remains, New Democrats. On economic issues such as austerity, jobs, and full employment, the New Democrats are far more extreme than the (stated) views of Donald Trump. The New Democrats are infamous for their close ties with Wall Street. This means that the paper’s description of the Chinese nosh is as clueless as the five New Democrats kvetching about policy “missteps” that they championed for decades. Of course, neither the paper nor the non-centrists mentioned that critical fact. The blindness of the non-centrists to the fact that it is their policies that launched the long war by the New Democrats against the working class is matched by the blindness of the paper.

The kvetching may have been “blunt,” but it was also dishonest. The five New Democrats know that they will likely be replaced in the 2018 elections by Republicans who share the New Democrats’ anti-working class dogmas. What was really going on was an extended cry of pain about the five senators’ fear of losing their jobs.

Note that the paper never tells you what the five New Democrats so bluntly identified as the New Democrats’ “missteps” or what new policies they believed needed to be adopted by the Party.   This failure is particularly bizarre because the paper says that its reportage is based on sources that the paper agreed to keep anonymous so that they could speak frankly about this meeting over Chinese food. That combination of supposed frankness from the sources gained by the grant of anonymity so them could describe in detail the purported bluntness by the gang of five should have produced some epic, specific condemnations of the Democratic Party’s leadership by the New Democrats. Instead, it produced mush. Focusing on the “economy” is the right general idea for any political party, but it is so general a word that it is close to meaningless without identifying the specific policy changes that the five New Democrats now support and oppose. The mushy reportage provides a thin gruel to the reader.

Most of all, they lamented, Democrats had simply failed to offer a clarion message about the economy with appeal to all 50 states.

“Why did the working people, who have always been our base, turn away?” Mr. Manchin said in an interview, recounting the tenor of the dinner conversation.

And the “clarion message about the economy” that they proposed that the Democratic Party make was? You would have thought that little detail would (a) be critical to the article and (b) would be something that the five New Democrats would have been eager to publicize without any need for anonymity. Conversely, if even after the disastrous election, from their perspective, the five New Democrats could not compose that “clarion” call, then the real problem is that the New Democrats’ economic dogmas prevent them from supporting such a “clarion” pro-worker policy.

The second sentence of the quotation is equally embarrassing to the New Democrats. It purportedly recounts “the tenor of the dinner conversation.” The first obvious question is – how did each of these five New Democrats answer that that question? That is what the readers would want to know. Even with the grants of anonymity to multiple sources the paper inexplicably presents only the vaguest hints as to the five Senators’ explanation for why the New Democrats waged their long war on the working class.

Notice also the unintentional humor of the five New Democrats finally asking themselves this existential question in 2016 – after the election. The New Democrats began their long war on the working class over 30 years ago. Tom Frank published his famous (initial) book warning that the New Democrats’ war on the working class would prove disastrous in 2004. The five New Democrats are shocked, shocked that the working class, after 30 years of being abused by the New Democrats’ anti-worker policies and after being vilified for decades by the New Democrats, overwhelmingly voted against the Nation’s most prominent New Democrat, Hillary Clinton. None of the five New Democrats appears to have a clue, even after the 2016 election, why this happened.

The article and the five New Democrats fail to discuss the anti-working class policies that they have championed for decades. Job security is the paramount issue that drives voting by many members of the working class. The New Democrats and the Old Republicans share a devotion to the two greatest threats to working class job security – austerity and the faux free trade deals. This makes it ironic that the paper sought out the Party faction leaders who have been so wrong for so long as supposedly being the unique source of providing the right answers now. If the five New Democrats had engaged in introspection and were prepared to discuss their disastrous, repeated policy failures that would have been valuable, but the New Democrats admit to making zero errors in the article.

The paper’s understanding of economics and jobs is so poor that it wrote this clunker.

But even liberals believe Democrats must work harder to compete for voters who lean to the right, if only to shave a few points off the Republican Party’s margin of victory in rural America. In some cases, they said, that may mean embracing candidates who hold wildly different views from the national party on certain core priorities.

First, the phrase and the implicit logic in the use of the phrase “even liberals” reverses reality. It is progressives who have consistently called for the Democratic Party to return to its role as a party that champions working people.

Second, the issue is generally not who “leans to the right.” Indeed, the 2016 election should have made clear to the paper the severe limits on the usefulness of the terms “right” and “left” in explaining U.S. elections. Jobs are not a right v. left issue.

Third, the paramount policy priority – jobs – is the same regardless of whether one focuses on economic or political desirability. So, how long does it take for the article, and the five New Democrats to discuss “jobs?” Given the fact that they vented at length about the fear that they would begin to lose their jobs within two years, the subject of job security should have been paramount to the five New Democrats. The article, however, never even mentioned jobs or any of the related critical concepts – austerity, the faux trade deals, or the refusal to provide full employment. Further, the article did not comment on the failure of the New Democrats to even mention these any of these four concepts.

“A Clarion Message about the Economy with Appeal to all 50 States”

Here is UMKC’s economics department’s long-standing proposal to every American political party:

Our party stands for full employment at all times. We will make the federal government the guaranteed employer of last resort for every American able and wanting to work. We recognize that the United States has a sovereign currency and can always afford to ensure full employment. We recognize that austerity typically constitutes economic malpractice and is never a valid excuse for rejecting full employment. The myth that we help our grandchildren by consigning their grandparents and parents to unemployment is obscene. The opposite is true.

The working class wants jobs and job security – not simply income. Working class people overwhelmingly want to work. Working class males who are unable to find secure, full time work often become depressed and unmarriageable. If you want to encourage marriage and improve the quality of marriages, full employment and job security are vital policies. There are collateral advantages to providing full employment. Full employment can reduce greatly the “zero sum” fears about employment that can tear a society apart. Each of these outcomes is overwhelmingly supported by Americans.

Good economics is not a “right” v. “left” issue. Austerity is terrible economics. The fact that we have a sovereign currency is indisputable and there is broad agreement among finance professionals that such a currency means that the federal government budget is nothing like a household. The major party that first adopts the federal full employment guarantee will secure a critical political advantage over its rivals. Sometimes, good economics is good politics.

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  1. Disturbed Voter

    It is critical that existing Democrat leadership goes into retirement. Finagling the Clintons back into the WH, delays this by 4, 8 or more years. Besides generating immense animosity. This could be easily accomplished if all Democrat leadership retires at 65 immediately, to live on their Social Security and Medicare (if they think those are still important).

  2. vlade

    ah, but there was a “clarion message”. It was “we care not even about the 1%, but the 0.01%. The rest of you can piss off”.
    Which is why Dems got dumped.

    1. steelhead23

      I suspect this meeting was functionally similar to the ecclesiastic kvetching when folks began to believe the world was a sphere some 600 years ago. I can imagine them thinking: unemployment (as they measure it) is low, housing prices are jumping, and boy, look at that stock market – how did our base constituency lose its way? As long as the Democratic Party leadership thinks this way, the party is useless and should be abandoned. I might suggest that Bill, Yves, Randy Wray, and others get to work educating them, but like flat-earthers, these folks not only live in willful ignorance, they would very much like to cast that crowd on the pyre of false-news purveyors lest they lead even more of the faithful astray.

    2. sgt_doom

      I have to fully agree with Prof. Black’s assessment; thought this when they reelected Nancy “my son works at Countrywide” Pelosi and doubled down on their identity politics. (David Harvey disposes of identity politics in a single sentence in his latest book.)

  3. timotheus

    But in this Lewis Carroll universe, “Work harder to compete for Republican votes” doesn’t mean steal Trump’s jobs-related thunder but give in on things like fracking a la Madame Heitkamp, or discover an enthusiasm for guns like Manchin, or run anti-abortion stalwarts like Donnelly. That’s why the reporter couldn’t depart from the vague mush–the “centrists'” solution to the Democrats’ debacle is to become Republicans.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      My folks are bible thumping, Fox News watching, prolife, and anti-gay marriage voters.

      They were all set to vote for Bernie, not because they agreed with him on everything, but because he was fighting for people like them and he was honest. They would have burned in H-E-double-hockey-sticks before voting for Clinton though. Judging by the polls during the primaries and the eventual outcome, they were far from alone in their assessment. Too bad the dimwit DC Dems can’t be bothered to actually talk to people like them.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        They sort of do talk to people like your relatives, but partisanship is strong. Plenty of local Democrats can diagnose and propose solutions caused by the GOP but will worship Trump if he had a “D” next to his name. Claire McCaskill probably recieves enough praise from partisan plebes for no payment she assumes all the plebes should love her. For conservative types, Sanders not being in the other tribe was a huge selling point.

  4. Cry Shop

    If such understanding is against their own venal interest, then they’ve got plenty of reasons to not understand, and quite a lot of institutional power to beat off anyone trying to force an organizational awareness.

  5. ChrisAtRU

    Great way to start my day …

    #Ada did the math and came up with:
    Coronation > Clarion-Call

    Nothing else mattered.


  6. The Trumpening

    The fundamental power diagram of politics is that groups of donors select groups of politicians to fight for the interests of the donors. The complication in democracy is that the voters select which politicians will rule. So the donors are like a client, the politicians like a lawyer and the voters are like a jury. A talented politician is one who can cunningly convince voters to set her guilty donors free.

    So all these New Democrats are doing is suggesting ways to better plead to the jury. But they are in no way questioning the donors or whether they should continue to push policies that only serve the donors’ best interests

    One revolutionary feature of Donald Trump’s campaign was that he was his own donor and so was very free to directly appeal to what is in the best interests of the working class voters he targeted: economic nationalism.

    Conversely the most problematic feature of the Trump campaign was that he was running as the head of a party that did have plenty of donors and he was openly contradicting plenty of these donors’ interests. But Trump correctly calculated that the only way to power in America was to hijack one of the two legacy parties.

    In some ways Bernie Sanders attempted a similar feat, although I remain skeptical about whether he really was trying to win. If Sanders had become President, he would be facing the same problems that Trump now faces; how to rule a party whose policies fundamentally diverge in many areas from what you have promised to deliver.

    And so until the Democrat change donors – specifically by announcing that as a party they will only accept small donations and adopt some of the Trump tactics to reduce campaign spending – nothing will change except the sound bites. Many working class people realized exactly how flawed Trump was but they rolled the dice for one reason only – no one owned Trump. Or as Henry Kissinger put it:

    “This president-elect, it’s the most unique that I have experienced in one respect. He has absolutely no baggage,” Kissinger told CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” “He has no obligation to any particular group because he has become president on the basis of his own strategy.”

    Kissinger is smart so he makes these words sound blasé but I can assure you they strike fear into the hearts of America’s elite. But only when we hear these same elites expressing fear of the entire Democratic party (like they did about Bernie Sanders) will we know something fundamental has changed for the better.

    1. fresno dan

      The Trumpening
      December 12, 2016 at 8:05 am

      Some very good insights. I would be curious to know your thoughts on when the repub/Trump split comes, which way will FOX tilt? Right now FOX is all Trump, but after a year or two of insinuations that Trump is a Pro Putin commie, I suspect the masterful propagandists that make so much of our beliefs will either cause the actual downfall of Trump, or will more than neuter him.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Trump was selected by Republican voters despite Fox not being his BFF. Trump is the GOP, and Republican voters support their own. 41 called Reagan a practitoner of Voodoo economics. Yes, this was an appeal to the Southern strategy. Attacks on Trump that say he’s not a “true conservative” will never work. Trump is a known clown. He can’t embarrass himself, and I think it’s important to remember Iraq happened. What did the average Republican voter take from that? Putin Fear Fest is very similar to the events of 2002.

        Periodically, new tribal arrangements need to be made. Romney was given a chance. He failed, so the GOP voters selected someone new. Republicans hate Democrats. Attacks levied by Democrats will always be brushed off.

        Videos could emerge of Trump swearing allegiance to Putin at an orgy, and Republican voters wouldn’t care.

        This Russia stuff isn’t about Trump but about the Democrats pleading with people not to look at the man behind the curtain.

        1. jrs

          Yes Republicans stick together plus they think Trump is most likely to accomplish their “small government” goals and so they support Trump (this is probably true, the establishment supported Hillary, but many a Republican votes party line for one of their own).

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Hillary did well with defense contract related Republicans, but they are clustered. The ones in hideously over priced McMansions in Virginia and Maryland are terrified of spending being redirected. They have mortgages to pay, and if Trump thinkers with defense spending whether through cutting cutting or moving, Northern Virginia will become a land of white elephants. Northern Virginia might have incomes, but outside of old town Alexandria, it’s a dump of out of control suburban sprawl.

            No one sane would live there by choice. The costs are too high to relocate a corporate operation or even grow one. Republicans in Wisconsin don’t care.

        2. fresno dan

          December 12, 2016 at 12:03 pm

          Oh, I agree with your overall points. I was just wondering specifically about Murdoch and if his contrariness will make FOX pro Russian ((in the face of overwhelming repub foreign policy establishment against Trump)), or will FOX be the “repub” anti Russain brand. It will be interesting when being “conservative” means you like Putin….
          And I remember how many rabidly anti communists where having conniptions when Reagan met with Gorbachev in Iceland. But Reagan was well ensconced in the establishment. Can Trump alone end the red menace?

        3. schmoe

          ? – “Trump was selected by Republican voters despite Fox not being his BFF. ” Hannity and O’Reilly segments this past cycle were one hour propaganda news feeds for Trump.

      2. The Trumpening

        As far as Fox goes from what I understand they are currently split — with Kelly Megyn (I know), Brit Hume, and Chris Wallace being anti-Trump while Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs are pro-Trump bigly. This is a smart balancing of Fox’s short term need for viewers versus their longer-term policy requirements. But there can be no doubt that Rupert Murdoch is rabidly anti-Trump — he even gave that raving NeverTrump lunatic Louise Mensch a website called HeatStreet.

        From glancing at the National Review it seems the GOPe think they are being generous by admitting defeat and magnanimously getting behind Trump’s cultural agenda while insisting conservatives stay in charge of economic and foreign policy. But this is no change at all since the Republicans have always been offering the working classes empty cultural issues.

        I imagine the Republicans see this as a Tour de France with them being the huge peloton while Trump is a lone breakaway attacker who they will soon swallow back up and totally co-opt.

        I don’t think the MSM are that good at propaganda; if they were Trump wouldn’t be President!. For example now they have launched this Trump + Putin campaign but Trump responds by picking a fight with China. But the MSM is aghast and totally support the Chinese position! So they accuse Trump of carrying water for Russia put there’s the entire MSM all lined up with buckets of Chinese water on their heads!

        I suppose at some point several top GOP Senators (McCain, Flake) and a bottom (Lindsey Graham) will leave the party and caucus with the Democrats to ensure legislative gridlock. I believe if Trump really tried he could get a House of Representatives that supports him. I don’t see how he herds the Senate though.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Propaganda only works when people are aware there is no curtain. At this point, the Wizard of Oz has been revealed, and unlike Baum’s creation, he has no redeeming qualities. Telling everyone to look at the big giant head again fails.

          The msm and the Democrats don’t know how to function moving forward because building trust will take years of effort, and many of the specific personalities are done. They can never be attached to a competitive effort without undermining the effort. If they hope to retake their spot, when FB seemed trendy and not a mom hangout, they need people to forget about the curtain, but it’s impossible. Instead they will whine about wicked witches of the North.

          Even Trump won because the GOP misfits were sheepdogs for Jeb. Whatever else Trump was, he wasn’t part of Jeb’s curtain. Shouting Trump is a fraud doesn’t work as long as you then scream “pay no mind to the strings on my back.” I think Rufio could have made more noise if he wasn’t such an obvious beta as he attacked Jeb, but one could argue he betrayed Jeb. People don’t like that kind of thing.

          1. fresno dan

            with a bottom (Lindsey Graham) and Rufio could have made more noise if he wasn’t such an obvious beta ….
            If only the repubs’ candidates hadn’t been all gay….except Trump

    2. Art Eclectic

      Totally agree. The real problem is how campaigns are financed and the cost of mounting a major campaign. The Dems had to compete with the Reps in terms of donor power and thus ceded power to their donor class and all donor classes are in direct conflict with the goals of the working class.

      Until the Dems figure out a way to fund campaigns without relying on corporations looking to protect business interests, they’re fairly well screwed.

      All this rhetoric about fixing the Democratic Party is just hot air until someone solves the campaign finance issue.

      1. samkoki


        Bernie proved that there is plenty of money for candidates with the right intent and policies.

        What you say, that dems can’t win without its moneyed donor class, is a notion that has been used to bludgeon democrats into conservatism and passivity.

        Bernie blasted your assertion about campaign finance to bits.

        As to the dems “figuring something out,” the dem leadership doesn’t need to figure anything out. They are perfectly happy serving the 1%. It’s the rest of the democrats who need to figure that out about their leadership and take action, whether it is tossing the leadership or starting a new party.

    3. Adamski

      According to an NYT article about his campaign, Sanders was not running to win until after his popularity started to skyrocket. Initially he was still attending the Senate and was not campaigning fulltime. It was just an attempt to spread his liberal policy message nationwide. But how to control the party as President when it’s opposed to him on policy? That’s what “political revolution” meant. If Congress opposed Trump, he will have a rally of thousands in the district of any difficult legislator blaming him or her for not letting Trump make America great again. Similarly Sanders can campaign to either get a Dem majority, it he hadn’t got one in 2016, by 2018. Or to increase it or make it more liberal. This is what he did when the city council opposed him in Burlington, Vermont. Within a year he got one which was much more pliable. The progressives never got a majority but he went from Obama-style gridlock to a working government.

      1. aab

        One correction: Bernie Sanders is not a liberal. He is a democratic socialist. It’s not a minor point, particularly because liberals deliberately obfuscate the difference to con voters.

        Liberals believe in hierarchy. I’m pretty confident Bernie Sanders is an egalitarian. That matters, when it comes to policy and governance, as well as core values.

  7. Marshall Auerback

    Putin is not the one responsible for manipulating Democrats into an intensely pro-Wall Street, anti-working class political posture that loses elections.

    1. Harry

      Maybe it’s some kind of Russian jui-jitsu?

      Or maybe it’s just the cold hard cash.

      Either way, “if in doubt, shout Putin out!”

      1. susan the other

        It occurs to me that if we had UMKC convictions and a sovereign bank we could dispense with political “parties” altogether since the labor-capital relationship will not ever again meet its old definition. I think the M5S Party in Italy is on to something – they are politically eclectic but they want to address all the modern perversions of government and they have a solution, a referendum computer named Rousseau to manage the social contract going forward. Interesting. And a lovely thought – all those pols out of a job.

        1. Clive

          I agree — if the “old” parties act like the old neoliberal parties, they can’t solve our current predicament. While our predicament isn’t a new one, just a new version of an old problem, retreading the past 20 or 30 years isn’t going to do the trick.

  8. Normal

    Gov’t as employer as last resort is a huge leap from the goals of full employment and job security. This is promoted here and elsewhere without any rationale. Someone will have to explain why this is the only possible solution.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Have you noticed the private sector stepping up? With a free market jobs program that would provide full employment?

      I haven’t either.

      1. jrs

        Plus the quality of the jobs in the private sector is often horrible (of course not all but many). There is a reason everyone wants a government job. And unless the government sector forces the private sector to improve the quality of their jobs (ie living wages and ACTUALLY enforce overtime and safety and etc. not to mention all the contract work going on that isn’t EVEN jobs) it will remain so. Quality of jobs matters.

    2. katz

      I don’t see anyone making the claim that it is the only possible solution. Careful with your rhetoric.

      That said, government employment is a simple and direct means to the ends (or “goals”) of full employment and job security. That’s the implicit argument.

    3. fritter

      Not really, but try explaining the opposite. How can we have full employment without gov’t employment as last resort? Granted you can have “goals” all you want if you ignore them, but we’ll put that aside and assume you are not disingenuous.
      Everything else has been tried and failed, miserably. Companies sit on piles of cash without significant hiring. Tax incentives get gamed easily.
      Offering employment is the simplest, most targeted solution that effectively cuts the rest of the employers out of the hostage taking business.

      1. Cry Shop

        The working class wants jobs and job security – not simply income.

        I rather like the term used here instead of jobs, people want a livelihood. In the USA, that get’s shortened into jobs, and then later short changed again into things like minimum wage. One could have fully employment and terrible livelihood. Only the Japanese could put up with 50+ years of being economic animals. Anyone who thinks full employment is going to solve issues like income inequality has been eating mushrooms picked from the cow pasture.

        1. Mark Anderlik

          Yes. Better to say “good jobs.” Nearly 40% of workers in my community work at low-wage jobs that do not provide for a decent living on its own.

        2. Waldenpond

          Full employment is the growth argument. Both would be beneficial but I would prefer the switch to income/leisure. Shorter work week, more leisure activities, less consumption, less growth.

          1. lyman alpha blob

            Ditto. Government doesn’t need to provide jobs where people go to the office and get paid to sit on their rear end all day – we already have enough of those in the public and private sectors.

            I’d like to see a basic income guarantee with some sort of mandatory work required to get it. Something like the draft where people are called up to work for a certain period of time on a rotating basis but also giving them some say in what sort of job they get to do. One year you work at job x for a period of time, train your replacement and then get a bunch of time off. The next year you can try something different at job y.

            1. Waldenpond

              Mandatory work… everything is work. Yes, you can have call up for people who want to do a stint/internship learning large scale community construction, infrastructure, plumbing, electrical, etc.

              Still, there needs to be jobs where people sit on their back sides part of a day… some prefer working in offices and some are only able to work in offices.

              But stretch the imagination: Community service runs the gamut: people to clean up streets, keep gutters open, scrape up weeds, maintain plantings, paint, repair; assisting children, seniors and animals; art etc. I am not a musician nor actor but would appreciate having free/low cost local enrichment programs. Public schools (the ones left) could be used in the evening for free classes: electronics, woodworking, engine/household repair, cooking, nutrition, etc.

              And yes, there will be a need for people who sit on their rear ends to help organize and track activities. :)

              1. lyman alpha blob

                Yes what you said.

                And don’t get me wrong about the rear end sitting – I don’t mean those types of jobs shouldn’t exist, I just mean that when you show up at the office you ought to have some actual work to do. And going to meetings deciding what work others should be doing doesn’t count. I’ve worked at a few where I was required to be there for eight hours a day but only had four hours of work to do, and not for lack of asking.

                One can only read the whole internet so many times a day ;)

          2. polecat

            ‘Shorter work week, more leisure activities, less consumption, less growth.’

            …and lots of Free birthcontrol ……..

        3. jrs

          What nonsense it is to generalize what the working class as a whole wants (and really this probably should include everyone who works for a living). Some want jobs, some income. If everyone only wanted jobs no mothers would ever stay home to raise children etc..

          1. Waldenpond

            Everything is work, everything is a job. If you take care of an elderly relative, it’s duty (unpaid labor), if you take care of an elderly stranger it’s a job. If you raise your own children, it’s duty (unpaid labor), if raise others children, it’s a job.

            Elites are claiming more and more work is duty and of course it should be unpaid not to mention volunteerism.

            If there was an income guarantee, most would labor their days away as work contributes to social connection and provides personal satisfaction.

            If there was an income, I imagine social life would be richer as more people could be artists (festivals!), performers (community theater!), work in schools (art, music, construction classes) etc.

    4. HotFlash

      And, of course, it is the government that is the issuer of this sovereign currency that they cannot run out of. Or are you suggesting that the government give the $$ to the private sector, which will, of course, trickle it on down? We could call it, I don’t know, how about ‘quantitative easing’?

      Another reason to prefer the government (which, after all, is “us”) to administer jobs-for-all is providing jobs that do useful things for society which could not be provided on a for-profit basis. Um, like daycare, medical care, public utilities, eldercare, voter registration, education, making things that are repairable, and then repairing them when they need it, organic agriculture, humane animal husbandry, saving the monarch butterflies, *manual* residential snow shoveling — all those things that ‘cost too much’ for a for-profit business to do.

      1. Eclair

        Exactly, HotFlash. And, notice that so many of these livelihoods, child and eldercare, teaching, repair persons, garbage collectors, snow plow operators, have been relegated to the level of ‘minimum wage jobs,’ and the people that perform these necessary services consigned to the ranks of ‘too dumb to be innovators or investment bankers.’

        We have been conned into mumbling to our military, ‘thank you for your service,’ as they get to board flights before us. Why not honor trash collectors and the women who clean the toilets in our workplaces and the workers who are out on the county roads and interstates at 2am in a blizzard, keeping the roads clear so we don’t have to be inconveniences? Where would our society be without them?

        1. Cry Shop

          Douglas Adams was only being partially facetious when he had the an advanced civilization wiped out because they shipped out their phone cleaners on rocket-ships (ala the Marching Morons). It was his subtle rebuke to both Kornbluth and the Ayn Randian/neo-conservative of that time, as well as the general vapid consumerist society.

          As to the military, I always favored the Coast Guard, they risk their lives to save other humans, not help the MIC and Empire.

      2. manymusings

        I think explaining govt-as-employer-of last-resort becomes easy once a few misconceptions are corrected and a few realities sink in. But it’s no small thing for the realities to sink in — everything we’ve been taught, or encouraged to assume, is working against us. Conventional, responsible wisdom is that the wealth one has that didn’t come from the government is “earned” and any activity that “earns” money is inherently productive and being productive is good — it makes one worthy. People think of “money” as the stuff passed around in big green wads in the movies, that comes into being through work an ingenuity (unless the govt commits the sin of “just printing it”). Distribution may not be “fair” but it at least follows certain intuitive laws or forces, that have a vague sense of morality associated with them (e.g., money is earned through productivity which means whoever has it by definition earned it, e.g. MH point on FIRE sector). It is a tautology — but a powerful one. People don’t think of money as the product of accounting, a two sided coin created literally from a balance sheet — debits and credits, assets and liabilities — and that commercial banks can conjure “money” — pump it into circulation — simply by marking an asset in their ledger. People don’t know that banks issue loans (create assets) out of nothing all the time (i.e., loans without corresponding deposits or reserves, loaning what they don’t “have”). The asset becomes revenue-generating through interests and fees, which, if non-liquidating, are the precise opposite of “productive.”

        It is so difficult for this to sink in because our society organizes itself as if this weren’t true. Speaking personally, it takes a persistent, systematic re-organization of how we process facts and arguments. We hear something like a “sovereign currency can never run out” as a justification for universal income or govt-as-employer-of-last-resort, and it triggers a deeply embedded sense that somehow this would send the economy spinning of the rails. But once it sinks in that “money” is just an asset/liability, and its entry into private circulation is purely a matter of public policy (not private “productivity”), at least then you’re asking the right question: how should a sovereign inject currency into private circulation? Maybe no one answer is universally right at all times and in all circumstances ….. but at this point debt is outpacing actual productivity, which means it must be written down (MH argument) and/or there needs to be an injection on the debtor side to try to catch up (e.g., jobs program or universal income). Which is why it is so nonsensical for the govt to “print money” in the form of transferring assets in the form of increasing bank reserves, as if bank lending depends on reserves at all … it’s like trying to fill a pool but flooding your sink). At least that’s how I make sense of it … still may botch the details, but at least once you strip away the cultural/social/moral baggage, it becomes more of a matter of simple economic logic that doesn’t need a larger explanation. If you want to fill the pool, fill the pool, not the sink. But the baggage is real — which is why it really does seem to be a matter of letting the realities sink in.

        1. juliania

          The baggage you speak of actually began with Reagan when from a government position of high privilege he actually sneered at government as the employer of last resort with his statement belittling “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” Which a subservient press took and ran with to make sure it settled into everyone’s subconscious. It’s helpful to revisit the rise of Ronald Reagan, and to remember that Obama took him as his role model, not FDR.

          This battle has been ongoing in American politics probably since way back before the Great Depression, but that’s as far back as some of us remember our parents telling us about. I love Bill Black because he’s the kind of Democrat I thought I was. This new crowd makes me sick. It’s appropriate that Obama’s murder weapons are called drones. That’s what the New Democrats are: drones.

      3. Normal

        HotFlash, I’m certainly not suggesting trickle-down, which we know doesn’t work. I’m really just looking for imaginative solutions to a social problem, and I’m not finding them here or anywhere else.

        One possibility is a subsidized minimum wage. Right now a minimum wage worker gets 7.25/hour, and the employer pays the same. Suppose that the employer pays $5.00/hr and the employee receives a tax subsidy of $5.00/hr. The employer then pays 5 and the employee makes 10. Now I can hire a landscaper just like the rich people do. Jobs are created.

        Now you can probably poke some holes in this idea, but that’s not the point. The point is that it is an idea that I can think about, and it has way more depth than a simplistic “Employer of Last Resort”. I’d love to have a dozen ideas like this one to think about.

  9. KYrocky

    The New Democrats will likely go the way of the blue dog Democrats. Their Republican voters will ask themselves why should they vote for a powerless Republican-lite, and they will simply die politically.

    They care about staying a Senator. They care about themselves first and only, and will suck up to and serve whoever provides the money that allows them to hold onto their seats.

    Voters in these red states voted for change, above all else. They voted for a nut job because they finally heard a candidate speaking to their issues and concerns, something their Senators, apparently, have not done.

  10. Dave McCrae

    There will soon be so few democrats remaining that we should give some serious consideration to a sequestration solution of giving them their own land, with no fossil fuel degradation, clean water from the glaciers, a tiny house, a pouch of seeds, and a sustainable truck garden, no cars trucks or bicycles, a fig tree in the middle of town. They could either pay taxes or not, as they felt motivated, and provide their own services regardless as not to be a burden. We could gather them up and have a long march to their new home; it would be hravenly! The rest of us could peacefully proceed to hell.

  11. manymusings

    This is mind blowing. Granted I didn’t follow the link to the full story — but how on earth is this even news, even under the pathetic standards of election post mortems? New dems concoct self-admiring story, posture as the ones who “get it.” Feed it to reporter, who agrees to attribute anonymously of course (so it has the feel of insiders and not high schoolers). I’m guessing what these courageous centrists really mean with the confused prescription to court voters who “lean right” is to appeal on social/cultural issues. Scold “elitist identity politics” of the national party as a distraction from the “economic message” (which of course will be the same assault on decency it always has been). So “economy first” would mean attack/exploit social liberalism and call it a “fight” for the economic plight of the every-man/woman. The beauty is you get to sound angry on behalf of voters without an iota of accountability or reflection, without ever having to answer for shallow, self-serving policies and abject failure.

      1. Ivy

        They were all singing from the same sheet of rented music. There was no way to get rid of them by conventional means since they all had tenure, and could be bought for a tenner. Public rebuke and shaming would have to suffice, but won’t have the desired impact.

      2. juliania

        I want to know more details about that Chinese food. Kung pao chicken? sweet and sour pork? Birds nest soup? (It’s so long since I’ve indulged, I’ve forgotten all the names – chilé con frijolés is more my style.)

        And who managed the chopsticks best? That’s a rare skill.

    1. craazyboy

      Well, the Centrist Intelligence Agency says it’s because Putin. Not only does that make it news, but true news, as well.

    2. cnchal

      Some times Bill is so over the top it is comical.

      Note that the paper never tells you what the five New Democrats so bluntly identified as the New Democrats’ “missteps” or what new policies they believed needed to be adopted by the Party. This failure is particularly bizarre because the paper says that its reportage is based on sources that the paper agreed to keep anonymous so that they could speak frankly about this meeting over Chinese food. . .

      The five New Democrats were: Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Jon Tester of Montana, at a dinner held at the Washington home of Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota.

      So, not anonymous at all.

      Here is the key part to understanding the plight of the politician / narcissist that feels the wrath of voters.

      . . . All face difficult re-election races in 2018.

      There is nothing worse than being ignored, but fail to understand that what they themselves fear, being ignored with no jawb, the peasants have been living with for decades. Hypocrite is the word and these are vacuous human beings that care only about themselves no matter what emotional fakery they use.

      1. flora

        what the five New Democrats so bluntly identified as the New Democrats’ “missteps” or what new policies they believed needed to be adopted by the Party

        Um, noun (subject)-verb-object. what (noun) was identified as (verb) “missteps” and “‘policies” (objects) eg. the 5 did not identify the missteps or policies.

        1. cnchal

          Comical. The first line in Bill’s post gets the NYT headline wrong.

          On December 10, 2016, a New York Times article entitled “Democrats Have a New Message: It’s the Economy First”

          The actual headline is “Democrats Hone a New Message: It’s the Economy Everyone”. A small detail for sure, which implies from The NYT it’s a purveyor of fake news, because honing implies a refinement of a message already being said, and is contradicted within two words, by the word “new”. It is possible that the headlines keep changing and that Bill’s was up when he quoted them, which would solidify their reputation of fake news purveyors.

          Getting back to the meat of Bill’s post.

          This failure is particularly bizarre because the paper says that its reportage is based on sources that the paper agreed to keep anonymous so that they could speak frankly about this meeting over Chinese food. That combination of supposed frankness from the sources gained by the grant of anonymity so them could describe in detail the purported bluntness by the gang of five should have produced some epic, specific condemnations of the Democratic Party’s leadership by the New Democrats. Instead, it produced mush . . .

          Going to the NYT article here is the reference to anonymous sources, so I freely admit to being wrong about Bill’s anonymous Chinese food eating party (or wake) attendees being the fatuous five.

          The party, these senators said, had grown overly fixated on cultural issues with limited appeal to the heartland. They criticized Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan, “Stronger Together,” as flat and opaque, according to multiple people present at the dinner, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.

          This is the NYT’s only reference to anonymity and furthers it’s reputation of a fake news purveyor as the word “some” implies that some would go on record but either couldn’t be found or weren’t asked.

          The rest of the article segues into a pity party, from those that weren’t there.

          Moderate Democrats are not alone in their sense of urgency about honing a new economic message. After a stinging loss to Donald J. Trump, liberals in the party are also trying to figure out how to tap into the populist unrest that convulsed both parties in 2016. Only by making pocketbook issues the central focus, they say, can Democrats recover in the 2018 midterm elections and unseat Mr. Trump in 2020.

          “We need to double down and double down again on the importance of building an economy not just for those at the top, but for everyone,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a high-profile progressive who is seen as a leading potential opponent for Mr. Trump.

          Elizabeth Warren doesn’t realize that those at the top stole it from everyone else, and quadrupling down on building an economy that works for those at the top won’t work for those at the bottom or anyone else except for those at the top.

          Beyond that, they expect wide variance in how officeholders handle Mr. Trump and his agenda, from moderates who seek out accommodation to blue-state leaders who pursue total war. Their emerging message is likely to focus on protecting Medicare and Social Security, attacking income inequality and political corruption, and blocking legislation that might restrict access to health care.

          “Likely” and “might” are weasel words. How likely are those that live and breath corruption to cut off their own supply?

          The whole article is a mix of real and fake news and some days I like my comedy, black.

      2. juliania

        Well, I laughed myself silly over this one:

        “So, how long does it take for the article, and the five New Democrats to discuss “jobs?” Given the fact that they vented at length about the fear that they would begin to lose their jobs within two years, the subject of job security should have been paramount to the five New Democrats.”

        I’m still chuckling. It’s sort of like five roosters in a chicken coop that only has room for one, all vying to become Chanticleer.

        I mean, you do have to laugh sometimes.

      3. Ignacio

        Yeps, hypocrisy became a major disease in politics long ago. Now it’s time to pay for it, apparently.

  12. templar555510

    We in the UK had thirteen years of ‘ New Labour ‘ which was Tony Blair’s repositioning of the old Labour Party to turn it into a right of centre Thatcherite, neoliberal, let’s privatise everything party, thus abandoning the working class in the process . Exactly as Bill Black describes re the Democrats . The problem as I see it is hydra headed , but here are the headings as it were :

    1. A political shift to the right is also a psychological one, separating the ‘ doing okays ‘ from the ‘ left behinds ‘ and in the process reducing ( if not eliminating ) empathy from the ‘ doing okays ‘ for the ‘ left behinds ‘ . So intentional or otherwise this is a ‘ divide and rule ‘ policy, by government that has given rise to Global Trumpism. In the process the electability of a left-wing candidate as a leader – Saunders, Corybyn – has been made impossible under the present set up.

    2. Automation. The power of labour hasn’t just been weakened by this rightward shift . It has been severely weakened by the onward march of capital embracing new technologies of every type and as we all know none of the productivity gains from this have benefitted labour, nor will they in the future.

    3. Bill Black is right a government is not like a household, but the daily message that we ‘ tax in order to spend ‘ is a deeply rooted belief system and just trying ( as I do ) to explain why this is not the case is, I imagine , like Copernicus trying to explain the actual motion of the earth around the sun. They just don’t get it. It goes against common sense .

    The election of Trump is not the beginning of the end it is end of the beginning. This is not a polite, dinner party conversation, it’s going to turn ugly rather quickly and, just like the Crash of 2008 no-one will have seen it coming.

    1. sharonsj

      Re automation: I know the CEOs are pushing replacing people with robots. But none of them can give you an answer to this question: Which robots are going to buy your products? And the fact that none of them can even think this far ahead means they are just as clueless as the New Dems. Maybe they can’t see it coming but plenty of us can. I keep telling my friends they better start preparing for any and all emergencies because the future ain’t gonna be pretty.

  13. John Wright

    Truly the Times will not connect any obvious dots

    The Times writes: “Why did the working people, who have always been our base, turn away?” Mr. Manchin said in an interview, recounting the tenor of the dinner conversation.

    This is the same Joe Manchin whose daughter, Heather Bresch, heads up Mylan of recent EpiPen monopoly pricing fame.

    Maybe Democratic voters are realizing that the elected Democrats are concerned about taking care of their own well-connected class, but working people are a group ignored most of the time and catered to, verbally, only 2/4/6 years.

  14. Quanka

    Can we get a re-post on a previous BB primer on MMT? I studied (bachelors) econ, I have read L. Randal Wray’s MMT book … but I find the concepts of a sovereign currency hard to explain to outsiders who are mostly inundated with globalism, “free trade” etc.

    1. casino implosion

      Wray, whatever his importance to the MMT world as a theorist, is a terrible explainer. Cullen Roche (who disagrees with the UMKC economists on the prescriptive points of the theory, such as the job guarantee) does a far better job explaining it to the beginner on his site Pragmatic Capitalism.

      1. JEHR

        Sometimes it does not matter how well you explain that a sovereign country need not raise taxes before spending can take place because some people will never change their beliefs no matter how well those beliefs are challenged. It is almost as difficult as trying to change someone’s religious beliefs.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          U.S. level sovereign countries. Russia could do it. Brazil and Indonesia could, but most “sovereign” countries would have problems with international trade if they tried this. Iran maybe could do it.

          I fear many people believe the U.S. is a higher character version of the UK or France, so when you try to explain this, they don’t quite grasp the U.S. is a continent spanning power and don’t grasp why the dollar has value. The U.S. isn’t the indispensable nation. It’s the nation that can check out. Other nation states don’t have this luxury. Despite the decline of industrial production, the U.S. makes that or could easily. American exceptionalism isn’t the moral garbage Obama pushes. It’s sovereignty in the modern world.

    2. Barry

      Try Bill Mitchell – his blog is on the blogroll on the right
      He even has weekly tests to see if you have got the concept!

  15. oh

    The Dems are hoping that they’ll be back in office as soon as the Repubs screw up. And it’s quite possible since people don’t have a choice other that the duopoly. We have to start building other parties to give ourselves a choice. But will we do it? How?

  16. John k

    They didn’t lose because more people voted rep.
    They lost because 10mm that voted for big o in 2008 stayed home, didn’t vote for anybody for pres, or went 3rd party… in other words, ABC, or anybody but Clinton.
    A few will some day emulate Bernie, but this leap of faith means no banker money. Not many of these senior dems…
    new blood, please!

  17. HotFlash

    I find the spectacle of these despicable excuses for Senators being deeply concerned for their own job security quite heart-warming. Thanks, Prof Black, goes great with coffee.

    But why, oh why, if they are that scared about their jobs, can’t they get a clue? Are they still afraid of Hillary? Afraid that they would have to do honest work? Or do they still truly believe that the working class is just muttons?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      There aren’t corporate board jobs waiting for losers without years of direct labor on behalf of corporate backers. Backbenchers who simply enjoy the celebrity of DC and follow corporate directives aren’t relevant once they lose.

      Certain ones retire to avoid the stench of losing (Evan Bayh, now officially a loser) and can manage decent jobs, but what does a loser bring to corporate pr especially when they are replaceable faces? A retired astronaut will come cheaper and present far less chance of scandal.

  18. DJG

    I’m detecting a new meme: Clarion

    And the Democrats already keep trying that same old trick of hating their base. Heidi Heitkamp is about as far right as one can go. What’s next? Resurrecting Pinochet to run in Florida?

  19. ChrisAtRU

    As if on cue, #TheLastCourtJesterOfTheNeoLiberalCrown has (of course) chimed in this morning with more weep-worthy analysis:

    The Tainted Election

    Warning: May cause severe eye-rolling (at the very least).

    1. John Wright

      Thanks for the warning.

      I did click on the link, and the Krugman’s first sentence was “The C.I.A., according to The Washington Post, has now determined that hackers working for the Russian government worked to tilt the 2016 election to Donald Trump.”

      At least Krugman didn’t write, “According to reliable sources” as many people would not view the CIA and WaPo as reliable sources.

      The thrust of the Krugman op-ed is that Clinton lost by such a small margin in some states, it could have been the alleged Russian influence that made the difference.

      And it could have been because she was a lousy candidate with many concerns about her judgment and ethics (Libya, Iraq, Clinton Foundation, 150K Wall Street speeches, possible selling of favors during SOS, email evidence destruction, cheating on a debate with prior knowledge of debate questions from Donna Brazile, for TPP then against it.).

      Krugman should be taking the Democratic leadership to task for foisting their marginal candidate on the electorate and the failure of the existing Democratic President to do much for the voters in his eight years in office.

      I remember going to a lecture/book signing by Paul Krugman about 12 years ago and he seemed to be a decent and thoughtful academic.

      Perhaps winning the Nobel branded economics prize was not good for him?

      Or maybe there is something in the drinking water at the Times, that like the Shadow, has the ability to “cloud men’s minds”?

      1. fresno dan

        John Wright
        December 12, 2016 at 10:29 am

        I view Krugman the same way I view the inquisitors of the Holy Roman Empire – they are the “true” believers, and as such have a duty to defend the sacredness of the church (i.e., the democratic party – it is INCAPABLE OF ERROR). Krugman’s indoctrination into the religion of economics would put the indoctrination of Jesuits to shame. Krugman is simply incapable of examining his indoctrination and in that respect can’t even match Greenspan, who at least owned up to the flaw in his (Greenspan’s) ideology.
        Democrats are perfect, ergo any critique of Obama, ACA, employment, droning, et al is racism and any critique of Hillary is sexism – Krugman: ANY disagreement means your stupid.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          As a corollary, a critique of Obama and Team Blue using a previous Krugman argument means you are super stupid.

  20. thesaucymugwump

    “Working class people overwhelmingly want to work. Working class males who are unable to find secure, full time work often become depressed and unmarriageable”

    As always, Bill Black is spot-on, but the above sentence can be extended by eliminating the words “working class.” The reason Trump won is not only because of blue collar workers. White collar workers in jeopardy of losing their job due to H-1B visas heard Trump’s promise that he would stop visa abuse.

    And Democratic leaders still have not realized that a non-criminal candidate, e.g. Jim Webb, would have trounced Trump due to his sheer normality. They were in too much of a hurry to crown their queen. Joe “more of the same” Biden is not the answer.

    The Democratic Party might disappear for the most part unless it dumps identity politics and re-embraces workers and unions.

    Jim Webb / Tulsi Gabbard in 2020.

    1. Paid Minion


      Just a slightly off topic question for the educated female readers.

      How much income does a guy have to make to be considered “marriageable”?

      And please, none of this BS about “income doesn’t matter……”

      1. TK421

        Well, surveys consistently show that about 75% of women won’t even date an unemployed man, so there’s a baseline.

        1. Dave

          Most women’s’ personal ads in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000’s had besides
          “like long walks on the beach, eating out, travel, movies”
          the final tagline…
          “must be “financially stable.”

      2. Elizabeth Burton

        I’ll ignore the implied misogyny in the question because I know it wasn’t intentional. ;-)

        It’s the man who thinks he’s unmarriageable if he isn’t making a decent income, which is the direct result of the crime perpetrated against men by gender inequality. The idea that the man has to be the primary breadwinner is archaic, but it has become so ingrained in most men’s psyche that he is subject to depression and the self-mutilation of denying himself a supportive relationship solely because he doesn’t fit the description of “a real man.”

        I’m not saying there aren’t still women who apply that criterion, but having grown up and lived all my life in that blue-collar world, I saw how that myth worked and undermined the self-esteem of far too many men, including my own father. It’s one of the ugly things about a patriarchal society true feminists want eliminated.

        1. TK421

          The idea that the man has to be the primary breadwinner has become so ingrained in most men’s psyche

          It is women who won’t date nemployed men that is the issue. If out-of-work men were valued by women, their psyches would feel much better.

      3. jrs

        It depends on who he is trying to marry. If you think working class and often low wage blue collar workers don’t ever get married you are smoking something (of course it might be harder with so called service work than true blue collar work, blue collar work like construction may not pay ANY more than service work in many cases, but there’s something more respectable about it – I’m not saying this is fair, just how I think it’s perceived).

        The thing is if they want to marry OUTSIDE their class they may have a hard go at it, but guys who don’t make a lot of money marry within their class ALL THE TIME, women who don’t come from any money either. There are bohemians and rebels who don’t give a flying fig about money either, but people who don’t come from money often don’t either (or they are REALISTIC, sure it might be nice to end up with riches, but in reality it’s unlikely.).

      4. just_kate

        If you are really asking… the answer is as jrs says … it depends. As an example for me it’s enough to support us if I could no longer work, which isn’t much considering no kids and a modest lifestyle and I could live pretty much anywhere, so not zero. For my one sister in law who doesn’t have any interest in working it’s probably a minimum 150K in order to maintain their familys lifestyle and to provide for one disabled child.

      5. HotFlash

        Well, it’s not exactly rocket science, there are several reasons that a woman is likely not wanting to sign up to support a man, which is marrying an unemployed man works out to. There are several good (“rational”) reasons for this, considering several peculiarities of womanhood.

        — One, it is usually women who bear, breastfeed and are mostly responsible for raising children. A woman who wants to have a family (which is built in to the biology) will probably steer clear of a partner who won’t be able to take over with the economic stuff when she is dealing with the biological stuff.

        — Another is that women are still paid way less than men on average, so if there is only one wage-earner, the wages will be smaller if it’s the woman earning them, in most cases, and, I would venture, in nearly all cases where cost is an object.

        — One more, not trivial, is that women tend in this culture, as in most, to value themselves as homemakers/mothers/wives, that is, for their labour within the home, while men tend to value themselves more as breadwinners, wage earners and bringers-home-of-bacon-or-wooly-mammoths from outside the home. Right or wrong, this is how it is and both sexes see it this way a lot. Result: unemployed males tend to become depressed, making them even less employable, while unemployed women who are supporting a family are more likely to just bite the bullet and take a job at MacDonald’s. Note: based on my experience, not sure how this holds up to real stats. For what it’s worth, there just aren’t enough jobs around for everyone, at least not the way we are doing it now.

        — A man who is not working may be perceived as a ‘drone’ by women. I think this may be a misplaced paleo/prehistoric throwback kind of thing, like men preferring women with wide hips (easier childbearing) and large breasts (plenty of milk for the babies), but it is not realistic to exclude it.

        — And lastly for this list, I am sure others can supply more, is that women can generally find work since they will work for less money than men (mostly) and can accept work in service professions such as waitressing, bartending, contract graphic design, food blogging, yada, without damaging their CV (so much) and without damaging their self-esteem (so much). Oh, and a woman taking a job that is ‘beneath her’ does not threaten her boss the way that a male taking a below his former status would threaten his boss. Seriously, I know of a former bank manager (OK, it was a small branch) who got axed during a huge bout of bank retrenchment in the 80’s (dozens of branches closed). He kept getting turned down until he lied about his past, said he’d been an independent home contractor and was delighted to finally get a job driving a mushroom truck.

  21. simjam

    The problem can be stated quite simply: New Democrats pay close attention to the ministrations of George Soros, AIPAC, and Wall Street. The policies flow from the dollars these entities provide.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      It’s the rationale solution. I believe even indirect elections would produce a better class of Senators. The pomp of the Senate is corrupting. Each Senator fancies himself or herself President. If Hillary could almost make it and an empty suit such as Obama could make it, the Senator from the great state of (insert state) definitely could, so they need to keep the money spigots open and not offend voters in other states.

      Indirectly elected Senators would likely be former state house Speaker types or people who have had more than back benching jobs and never felt the thrill of winning statewide. They wouldn’t entertain delusions of becoming President.

      An added benefit is people would pay more attention to state house races. Fixing potholes would not be sufficient for reelection.

      1. Knot Galt

        Senate corruption is not about pomp as it is really about Citizens United. That senators have weak malleable egos that money easily corrupts is disguised by the pomp of the Senate.

        Anyone who has ever run for local or state public office knows that local races are treated like the bush leagues and minor leagues of baseball where the campaign manager acts like a scout for the party apparatus. Each party has their loyalists and, to borrow a great metaphor, Inquisition-era Klugmans, who guard the gates and dole out monies to influence the local media and voters.

        Thrown to the wayside are the actual beliefs of democracy; as the religion of money is the only thing recognized. The rationale decision is to reconnect with the ideas of principal. It’s not going to be easy. As this article demonstrates, everyone involved in it is completely void of any principal thought.

        And yet I wonder. Bill Black’s critique and commentators on this post provide evidence that general principals are thought about. How then, could indirect elections tap into this vein and eschew our vacuous and archaic Senator class?

  22. Altandmain

    The existing Democratic leadership should be forced to resign in disgrace.

    They claimed that veering to the center and peddling candidates like Clinton would be more “electable”. That has not proven to be the case.

    The cruel reality is that they won’t go without a fight. They’re not public servants. They only care about themselves.

    1. rd

      The House Democrats re-elected Pelosi and company virtually unchallenged. I think they are so used to losing that they view keeping majorities in the east and west coast states as victory.

    2. TK421

      When centrism fails, they’ll try conservativism. People like that only do the right thing after all else has failed.

  23. Denis Drew

    One interesting path to bring left out labor back?

    Just read that Trump stacked NLRB could walk back teaching and research assistants category as employees. Hey; we know states may conduct their own union certification setups for farm workers because farm workers were left off FDR’s ship.


    State labor setup could add something oh, so every day practicable. State NLRB substitute could MANDATE certification elections upon a finding of union busting. States should also take union busting as seriously in criminal law as fed takes taking a movie in the movies — that FBI warning on your DVD comes alive and you are gone for couple of years if caught.

    But mandating certification elections has so much more an everyday, natural businesslike feel that it could sail relatively smoothly through state legislatures. Nota bene: Wisconsin mandates re-certification of public employees unions annually (51% of membership required; not just voters) — nothing too alien about mandating union elections.

    State set up might ACTUALLY go the last practical mile and actually force employers to actually bargain with certified unions — which refusal to bargain remains the last impassable barrier associated with the fed no-enforcement mechanism. See Donald Trump in Vegas.

    for an example (maybe unique) of a state fully replicating federal labor law for a left out segment of workers.

  24. mf

    you are advocating for state socialism. Get real. This has been tried and never worked. Make work on taxpayer’s dime is not an answer.

  25. rd

    Classic tone-deafness

    So I think one of the main issues out there is even understanding what middle-class means. A key example of this can be found in this piece where the difficulties that Swiss watch makers are facing is because of the struggling middle-class. Completely baffling…I have never known anybody in the “middle class” to even be thinking of buying a Rolex Oyster watch. There are many other things that they would do with $5k before buying a watch.

    I think the media and policy makers are mistaking the struggles of people who are making over $250k a year (or local equivalent) as the struggles of the middle class.

  26. rd

    I think this is an interesting column discussing whether or not economists should be focused as much on income distribution as total income growth. I think what the Democratic party has completely missed is that the period fo time that the Trump voters view as “When America Was Great” was a period when GDP growth was high (3%-4%) but more importantly, a record percentage of it was being allocated to the middle-class.

    Trump’s big challenge will be routing the current 3% GDP growth to his voters as he has promised to. I have not seen or heard any concrete policy proposals that will accomplish this, so there should be a yawning wide door for the Democrats to march through 2 and 4 years from now if they can figure out how to turn on the light to discover where that door is. Right now the Democrats are just fighting with the Republicans on how the money should be distributed among the top 10% instead of looking at revisiting their policies form scratch.

    Sanders was on the right track, but went to far on key things such as free university. I think most Americans would agree that college should have some value that is paid for, but it should be much less than $60k/year tuition. The rest of the developed world doesn’t have massive student debt issues because their colleges and universities are typically in the $3k to $20k/year tuition and many professional programs (lawyers, doctors etc.) are structured as long undergraduate programs instead of 4-year undergraduate program just being a weeding out process before you even get into the professional program.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Free college is popular. Most people went to free public schools. Your argument against college is the same argument against elementary school. If you want more STEM graduates as a society, pay for it.

  27. JustAnObserver

    One small quibble: IMHO it is an issue of left vs. right. Unfortunately the US has no `left’ and the only options ever presented are right vs. even-further-right.

    1. juliania

      “Second, the issue is generally not who “leans to the right.” Indeed, the 2016 election should have made clear to the paper the severe limits on the usefulness of the terms “right” and “left” in explaining U.S. elections. Jobs are not a right v. left issue.”

  28. Kris Aman

    Until Democrat Party leadership disavows their neoliberal, financial strip-mining, progressive voters are challenged by identity politics. How can one remain a Democratic loyalist under those circumstances?

    In an article today on medical patents, drug profits and march-in rights, the NY Times created a video.

    The video begins with the March of Dimes funded development of the polio vaccine. Edward Murrow asks Jonas Salk, “Who owns the patent on this vaccine?” Salk famously answered, “The people, I’d say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

    The video ends with his Salk’s son repeating what his father said to him: “What is more important? The human value of the dollar or the dollar value of the human?”

    These questions are not valid when corporate oligarchs control the puppet strings of both political parties.

    Presumably, that’s because neoliberals have bought into the Chicago School theory of human capital, “the stock of knowledge, habits, social and personality attributes, including creativity, embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value.”

    Since economic value is intended for the shareholder, neoclassical and neoliberal policies are intended to achieve the same outcome: to decrease the dollar value of the human.

  29. fosforos

    Prof Black says that Al Gore is “the [co]leader of the New Democrats.” That was true in 1988-1992. But some people sometimes learn a thing or two over a quarter-century. In Gore’s case, he learned something yuuuge: that global warming is the central issue of our time for *everyone*. Yet Prof. Black, the Democrats new, old, and middleaged, every single commenter on this posting, not to mention the Five coal-state Senators whining about “the economy,” not a one of all of them had a single word about the most important (perhaps the *only* important issue) of our times. Does anyone doubt that, had the Democrats been forced to nominate him in the contested convention that I had so hoped for, the campaign, its outcome, and our present discussion would be quite different?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I believe Gore was a less talented version of his father under the spell of Tipper who was usually on a crusade against naughty language. Left to his own devices, Gore is alright, but it takes him a while. He was garbage in 2000.

  30. larry silber

    Wow! I respect Bill Black,so much so that if I was a billionaire respite with household name recognition to promote my ascension to the big house, my cabinet would have hopefully been blessed with his inclusion. I get the monetary sovereignty reality and am equally frustrated over the disconnect most people have digesting the difference between public and private debt. Unfortunately long standing cultural beliefs continually propogandized are hard to change, so without a very established credentialed leader, like maybe some of those new democats, and a host of other well respected influential cohorts supporting this counter intuitive reversal of perception, the reality that our governments finances are nothing akin to a households will only be reckognized by a very small group of open minded heterodox academics and truth seeking objective journalists, like the folks here at Naked Capitalism. I assume some unsavory corporate benefactors of energy , banking, and the sometimes comically nefarious cast of charachters running the various military industrial enterprises, obviously dependent upon government accomodations, contracts, and unlimited revolving door exposures, must have some inherent comprehension of the governments monetary sovereignty. Though i am sure, just like justice and law, to them its two tier. Whether we want to admit it or not, class is a big divider, and those benefitting from our current insanity stand on some shaky shoulders. They need institutions that are self affirming and equally prescribed to regardless of class. Religion helps the downtrodden with hope and morality; equally comforting to the plutocrats that be are the multiple arenas upholding assumptions espousing limited federal government coffers, conforming the masses to be humble and aquiescent, but more importantly incentivizes a hard working competitive ethic that the powers that be easily exploit for ever more profits.
    Now the divergence between me and Professor Black comes where he implores that people just want to work, anotherwords have a secure job. What that job is and what it pays isnt the priority, the idea they have a structured format to adhere to and anchor their societal existence is whats paramount. I dont buy it! . I get it, here at Naked Capitalism isnt the place for anecdotal exploits, so i dont want to bore anybody with my angry history. But experiences do correspond to attitudes and policy persuasions. Briefly, I own a small business, I hate it, I simply have to continue with it because otherwise I am in the street. The Great Recession gutted my savings, opportunities, and networks, while age, personal obligations, and finances precludes any restructuring. Surely many middle aged middle class americans share my frustrations, and the future isnt looking any brighter. That being said, work for the sake of doing something integrated for a minimal pay check to stay relevant and in the “system” isnt what’s needed. Productive opportunities that engage those that are idle and prone to self destructive behaviors might be socially responsible, and obviously our federal government can provide funding for that, even though this cooperative idea might sound too much like socialism. Young people surely need educational opportunities and structured paths to engage in that will lead to either being productive or aid searching for better sustainable ventures that balance our proclivity to turn nature into profits for the few. Point is, obviously society is a growth in progress and each new generation needs guidance finding ways to spend time assuring they and their societal members are continuing to build upon and improve the quality of everybodies lives. Sometimes profit can be a great motivator for this, and other times not. I am not sure if Prof. Black is expanding his definition of work. Maybe instead of getting into debt for an education, vocational or academic, people should be paid a living wage to receive an education at the beginning of their occupational lives, or like me, they need help restructuring due to public policy that destroyed their economic and occupational existences.. Bernie tried to introduce these concepts, but fear of deficits and lacking funds took center stage. Bernie, who obviously knows the truth because of Stephanie Kelton, got cold feet with regards to attempting an honest discusion, reverting instead to increased taxing to find funding. Sorry , until the definition of “work” is broadened, i’m not in favor of collectively indoctrinating unfortunate able bodied persons into a government work program that serves as a wage floor for some make for work job. Something like the Orange Oompa Loompa’s proposed border wall? The entire concept sounds way too Orwelian for me.

  31. sierra7

    After reading most all the comments (I love Bill Black) and consulting my inner self, I’m convinced the only solution (!?!) is to burn it all down and start all over again.
    What the “capitalist system direly lacks is, a “Quality of Life”………
    A quality of life for all individuals is totally contrary to the profit system.
    So that’s why I say, burn it all down and start all over.

  32. patrick

    how come the congressional progressive caucus ain’t pushing for unionizing walmart workers? for instance…

  33. jackiebass

    New Democrats are really moderate republicans. For the democrat party to survive and get back their base, they have to adopt progressive democrat ideas. Electing Schumer as their senate leader is a mistake. He represents all that is bad about the democrat party. People are tired of being screwed by Neoliberal policies. We need a new deal for the 99%. Those voters that were conned by Trump are in for a rude awaking, and it won’t take too long. American voters are very fickle. Not long ago the republican party was portrayed as on life support. It didn’t take long for that to change. If democrats are smart they will quit living in the past and become more progressive. They only need to support their base to make big changes happen.

  34. Sound of the Suburbs

    The world isn’t actually getting better for the young.

    The housing boom was a one way ticket to wealth for an older generation.

    The sky high house prices mean the young are faced with exorbitant housing costs for life with none of the capital gains.

    Student debt and healthcare costs are rising rapidly to disadvantage the younger generation who are just starting out.

    A life of precarious jobs on low wages await the majority.

    It is hardly surprising that most of Bernie supporters are young and it is hard to imagine capitalism will have anything to offer this generation.

    The new landlords will be preying on most of them for life looking to supplement their already affluent lifestyles.

    Change is coming because of the life we have set out for the younger generation and year on year their political clout will grow.

    The smug, metropolitan liberals are yesterday’s story.

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