Michael Hudson: Trump is Obama’s Legacy. Will this Break up the Democratic Party?

By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is J is For Junk Economics

Nobody yet can tell whether Donald Trump is an agent of change with a specific policy in mind, or merely a catalyst heralding an as yet undetermined turning point. His first month in the White House saw him melting into the Republican mélange of corporate lobbyists. Having promised to create jobs, his “America First” policy looks more like “Wall Street First.” His cabinet of billionaires promoting corporate tax cuts, deregulation and dismantling Dodd-Frank bank reform repeats the Junk Economics promise that giving more tax breaks to the richest One Percent may lead them to use their windfall to invest in creating more jobs. What they usually do, of course, is simply buy more property and assets already in place.

One of the first reactions to Trump’s election victory was for stocks of the most crooked financial institutions to soar, hoping for a deregulatory scythe taken to the public sector. Navient, the Department of Education’s knee-breaker on student loan collections accused by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) of massive fraud and overcharging, rose from $13 to $18 now that it seemed likely that the incoming Republicans would disable the CFPB and shine a green light for financial fraud.

Foreclosure king Stephen Mnuchin of IndyMac/OneWest (and formerly of Goldman Sachs for 17 years; later a George Soros partner) is now Treasury Secretary – and Trump is pledged to abolish the CFPB, on the specious logic that letting fraudsters manage pension savings and other investments will give consumers and savers “broader choice,” e.g., for the financial equivalent of junk food. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hopes to privatize public education into for-profit (and de-unionized) charter schools, breaking the teachers’ unions. This may position Trump to become the Transformational President that neoliberals have been waiting for.

But not the neocons. His election rhetoric promised to reverse traditional U.S. interventionist policy abroad. Making an anti-war left run around the Democrats, he promised to stop backing ISIS/Al Nusra (President Obama’s “moderate” terrorists supplied with the arms and money that Hillary looted from Libya), and to reverse the Obama-Clinton administration’s New Cold War with Russia. But the neocon coterie at the CIA and State Department are undercutting his proposed rapprochement with Russia by forcing out General Flynn for starters. It seems doubtful that Trump will clean them out.

Trump has called NATO obsolete, but insists that its members up their spending to the stipulated 2% of GDP — producing a windfall worth tens of billions of dollars for U.S. arms exporters. That is to be the price Europe must pay if it wants to endorse Germany’s and the Baltics’ confrontation with Russia.

Trump is sufficiently intuitive to proclaim the euro a disaster, and he recommends that Greece leave it. He supports the rising nationalist parties in Britain, France, Italy, Greece and the Netherlands, all of which urge withdrawal from the eurozone – and reconciliation with Russia instead of sanctions. In place of the ill-fated TPP and TTIP, Trump advocates country-by-country trade deals favoring the United States. Toward this end, his designated ambassador to the European Union, Ted Malloch, urges the EU’s breakup. The EU is refusing to accept him as ambassador.

Will Trump’s Victory Break Up the Democratic Party?

At the time this volume is going to press, there is no way of knowing how successful these international reversals will be. What is more clear is what Trump’s political impact will have at home. His victory – or more accurately, Hillary’s resounding loss and the way she lost – has encouraged enormous pressure for a realignment of both parties. Regardless of what President Trump may achieve vis-à-vis Europe, his actions as celebrity chaos agent may break up U.S. politics across the political spectrum.

The Democratic Party has lost its ability to pose as the party of labor and the middle class. Firmly controlled by Wall Street and California billionaires, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) strategy of identity politics encourages any identity except that of wage earners. The candidates backed by the Donor Class have been Blue Dogs pledged to promote Wall Street and neocons urging a New Cold War with Russia.

They preferred to lose with Hillary than to win behind Bernie Sanders. So Trump’s electoral victory is their legacy as well as Obama’s. Instead of Trump’s victory dispelling that strategy, the Democrats are doubling down. It is as if identity politics is all they have.

Trying to ride on Barack Obama’s coattails didn’t work. Promising “hope and change,” he won by posing as a transformational president, leading the Democrats to control of the White House, Senate and Congress in 2008. Swept into office by a national reaction against the George Bush’s Oil War in Iraq and the junk-mortgage crisis that left the economy debt-ridden, they had free rein to pass whatever new laws they chose – even a Public Option in health care if they had wanted, or make Wall Street banks absorb the losses from their bad and often fraudulent loans.

But it turned out that Obama’s role was to prevent the changes that voters hoped to see, and indeed that the economy needed to recover: financial reform, debt writedowns to bring junk mortgages in line with fair market prices, and throwing crooked bankers in jail. Obama rescued the banks, not the economy, and turned over the Justice Department and regulatory agencies to his Wall Street campaign contributors. He did not even pull back from war in the Near East, but extended it to Libya and Syria, blundering into the Ukrainian coup as well.

Having dashed the hopes of his followers, Obama then praised his chosen successor Hillary Clinton as his “Third Term.” Enjoying this kiss of death, Hillary promised to keep up Obama’s policies.

The straw that pushed voters over the edge was when she asked voters, “Aren’t you better off today than you were eight years ago?” Who were they going to believe: their eyes, or Hillary? National income statistics showed that only the top 5 percent of the population were better off. All the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during Obama’s tenure went to them – the Donor Class that had gained control of the Democratic Party leadership. Real incomes have fallen for the remaining 95 percent, whose household budgets have been further eroded by soaring charges for health insurance. (The Democratic leadership in Congress fought tooth and nail to block Dennis Kucinich from introducing his Single Payer proposal.)

No wonder most of the geographic United States voted for change – except for where the top 5 percent, is concentrated: in New York (Wall Street) and California (Silicon Valley and the military-industrial complex). Making fun of the Obama Administration’s slogan of “hope and change,” Trump characterized Hillary’s policy of continuing the economy’s shrinkage for the 95% as “no hope and no change.”

Identity Politics as Anti-Labor Politics

A new term was introduced to the English language: Identity Politics. Its aim is for voters to think of themselves as separatist minorities – women, LGBTQ, Blacks and Hispanics. The Democrats thought they could beat Trump by organizing Women for Wall Street (and a New Cold War), LGBTQ for Wall Street (and a New Cold War), and Blacks and Hispanics for Wall Street (and a New Cold War). Each identity cohort was headed by a billionaire or hedge fund donor.

The identity that is conspicuously excluded is the working class. Identity politics strips away thinking of one’s interest in terms of having to work for a living. It excludes voter protests against having their monthly paycheck stripped to pay more for health insurance, housing and mortgage charges or education, or better working conditions or consumer protection – not to speak of protecting debtors.

Identity politics used to be about three major categories: workers and unionization, anti-war protests and civil rights marches against racist Jim Crow laws. These were the three objectives of the many nationwide demonstrations. That ended when these movements got co-opted into the Democratic Party. Their reappearance in Bernie Sanders’ campaign in fact threatens to tear the Democratic coalition apart. As soon as the primaries were over (duly stacked against Sanders), his followers were made to feel unwelcome. Hillary sought Republican support by denouncing Sanders as being as radical as Putin’s Republican leadership.

In contrast to Sanders’ attempt to convince diverse groups that they had a common denominator in needing jobs with decent pay – and, to achieve that, in opposing Wall Street’s replacing the government as central planner – the Democrats depict every identity constituency as being victimized by every other, setting themselves at each other’s heels. Clinton strategist John Podesta, for instance, encouraged Blacks to accuse Sanders supporters of distracting attention from racism. Pushing a common economic interest between whites, Blacks, Hispanics and LGBTQ always has been the neoliberals’ nightmare. No wonder they tried so hard to stop Bernie Sanders, and are maneuvering to keep his supporters from gaining influence in their party.

When Trump was inaugurated on Friday, January 20, there was no pro-jobs or anti-war demonstration. That presumably would have attracted pro-Trump supporters in an ecumenical show of force. Instead, the Women’s March on Saturday led even the pro-Democrat New York Times to write a front-page article reporting that white women were complaining that they did not feel welcome in the demonstration. The message to anti-war advocates, students and Bernie supporters was that their economic cause was a distraction.

The march was typically Democratic in that its ideology did not threaten the Donor Class. As Yves Smith wrote on Naked Capitalism: “the track record of non-issue-oriented marches, no matter how large scale, is poor, and the status of this march as officially sanctioned (blanket media coverage when other marches of hundreds of thousands of people have been minimized, police not tricked out in their usual riot gear) also indicates that the officialdom does not see it as a threat to the status quo.”[1]

Hillary’s loss was not blamed on her neoliberal support for TPP or her pro-war neocon stance, but on the revelations of the e-mails by her operative Podesta discussing his dirty tricks against Bernie Sanders (claimed to be given to Wikileaks by Russian hackers, not a domestic DNC leaker as Wikileaks claimed) and the FBI investigation of her e-mail abuses at the State Department. Backing her supporters’ attempt to brazen it out, the Democratic Party has doubled down on its identity politics, despite the fact that an estimated 52 percent of white women voted for Trump. After all, women do work for wages. And that also is what Blacks and Hispanics want – in addition to banking that serves their needs, not those of Wall Street, and health care that serves their needs, not those of the health-insurance and pharmaceuticals monopolies.

Bernie did not choose to run on a third-party ticket. Evidently he feared being accused of throwing the election to Trump. The question is now whether he can remake the Democratic Party as a democratic socialist party, or create a new party if the Donor Class retains its neoliberal control. It seems that he will not make a break until he concludes that a Socialist Party can leave the Democrats as far back in the dust as the Republicans left the Whigs after 1854. He may have underestimated his chance in 2016.

Trump’s Effect on U.S. Political Party Realignment

During Trump’s rise to the 2016 Republican nomination it seemed that he was more likely to break up the Republican Party. Its leading candidates and gurus warned that his populist victory in the primaries would tear the party apart. The polls in May and June showed him defeating Hillary Clinton easily (but losing to Bernie Sanders). But Republican leaders worried that he would not support what they believed in: namely, whatever corporate lobbyists put in their hands to enact and privatize.

The May/June polls showed Trump and Clinton were the country’s two most unpopular presidential candidates. But whereas the Democrats maneuvered Bernie out of the way, the Republican Clown Car was unable to do the same to Trump. In the end they chose to win behind him, expecting to control him. As for the DNC, its Wall Street donors preferred to lose with Hillary than to win with Bernie. They wanted to keep control of their party and continue the bargain they had made with the Republicans: The latter would move further and further to the right, leaving room for Democratic neoliberals and neocons to follow them closely, yet still pose as the “lesser evil.” That “centrism” is the essence of the Clintons’ “triangulation” strategy. It actually has been going on for a half-century. “As Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere quipped in the 1960s, when he was accused by the US of running a one-party state, ‘The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them’.”[2]

By 2017, voters had caught on to this two-step game. But Hillary’s team paid pollsters over $1 billion to tell her (“Mirror, mirror on the wall …”) that she was the most popular of all. It was hubris to imagine that she could convince the 95 Percent of the people who were worse off under Obama to love her as much as her East-West Coast donors did. It was politically unrealistic – and a reflection of her cynicism – to imagine that raising enough money to buy television ads would convince working-class Republicans to vote for her, succumbing to a Stockholm Syndrome by thinking of themselves as part of the 5 Percent who had benefited from Obama’s pro-Wall Street policies.

Hillary’s election strategy was to make a right-wing run around Trump. While characterizing the working class as white racist “deplorables,” allegedly intolerant of LBGTQ or assertive women, she resurrected the ghost of Joe McCarthy and accused Trump of being “Putin’s poodle” for proposing peace with Russia. Among the most liberal Democrats, Paul Krugman still leads a biweekly charge at The New York Times that President Trump is following Moscow’s orders. Saturday Night Live, Bill Maher and MSNBC produce weekly skits that Trump and General Flynn are Russian puppets. A large proportion of Democrats have bought into the fairy tale that Trump didn’t really win the election, but that Russian hackers manipulated the voting machines. No wonder George Orwell’s 1984 soared to the top of America’s best-seller lists in February 2017 as Donald Trump was taking his oath of office.

This propaganda paid off on February 13, when neocon public relations succeeded in forcing the resignation of General Flynn, whom Trump had appointed to clean out the neocons at the NSA and CIA. His foreign policy initiative based on rapprochement with Russia and hopes to create a common front against ISIS/Al Nusra seemed to be collapsing.

Tabula Rasa Celebrity Politics

U.S. presidential elections no longer are much about policy. Like Obama before him, Trump campaigned as a tabula rasa, a vehicle for everyone to project their hopes and fancies. What has all but disappeared is the past century’s idea of politics as a struggle between labor and capital, democracy vs. oligarchy.

Who would have expected even half a century ago that American politics would become so post-modern that the idea of class conflict has all but disappeared. Classical economic discourse has been drowned out by their junk economics.

There is a covert economic program, to be sure, and it is bipartisan. It is to make elections about just which celebrities will introduce neoliberal economic policies with the most convincing patter talk. That is the essence of tabula rasa politics.

Can the Democrats Lose Again in 2020?

Trump’s November victory showed that voters found him to be the Lesser Evil, but all that voters really could express was “throw out the bums” and get a new set of lobbyists for the FIRE sector and corporate monopolists. Both candidates represented Goldman Sachs and Wall Street. No wonder voter turnout has continued to plunge.

Although the Democrats’ Lesser Evil argument lost to the Republicans in 2016, the neoliberals in control of the DNC found the absence of a progressive economic program to less threatening to their interests than the critique of Wall Street and neocon interventionism coming from the Sanders camp. So the Democrat will continue to pose as the Lesser Evil party not really in terms of policy, but simply ad hominem. They will merely repeat Hillary’s campaign stance: They are not Trump. Their parades and street demonstrations since his inauguration have not come out for any economic policy.

On Friday, February 10, the party’s Democratic Policy group held a retreat for its members in Baltimore. Third Way “centrists” (Republicans running as Democrats) dominated, with Hillary operatives in charge. The conclusion was that no party policy was needed at all. “President Trump is a better recruitment tool for us than a central campaign issue,’ said Washington Rep. Denny Heck, who is leading recruitment for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).”[3]

But what does their party leadership have to offer women, Blacks and Hispanics in the way of employment, more affordable health care, housing or education and better pay? Where are the New Deal pro-labor, pro-regulatory roots of bygone days? The party leadership is unwilling to admit that Trump’s message about protecting jobs and opposing the TPP played a role in his election. Hillary was suspected of supporting it as “the gold standard” of trade deals, and Obama had made the Trans-Pacific Partnership the centerpiece of his presidency – the free-trade TPP and TTIP that would have taken economic regulatory policy out of the hands of government and given it to corporations.

Instead of accepting even Sanders’ centrist-left stance, the Democrats’ strategy was to tar Trump as pro-Russian, insist that his aides had committed impeachable offenses, and mount one parade after another. “Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio told reporters she was wary of focusing solely on an “economic message” aimed at voters whom Trump won over in 2016, because, in her view, Trump did not win on an economic message. “What Donald Trump did was address them at a very different level — an emotional level, a racial level, a fear level,” she said. “If all we talk about is the economic message, we’re not going to win.”[4] This stance led Sanders supporters to walk out of a meeting organized by the “centrist” Third Way think tank on Wednesday, February 8.

By now this is an old story. Fifty years ago, socialists such as Michael Harrington asked why union members and progressives still imagined that they had to work through the Democratic Party. It has taken the rest of the country half a century to see that Democrats are not the party of the working class, unions, middle class, farmers or debtors. They are the party of Wall Street privatizers, bank deregulators, neocons and the military-industrial complex. Obama showed his hand – and that of his party – in his passionate attempt to ram through the corporatist TPP treaty that would have enabled corporations to sue governments for any costs imposed by public consumer protection, environmental protection or other protection of the population against financialized corporate monopolies.

Against this backdrop, Trump’s promises and indeed his worldview seem quixotic. The picture of America’s future he has painted seems unattainable within the foreseeable future. It is too late to bring manufacturing back to the United States, because corporations already have shifted their supply nodes abroad, and too much U.S. infrastructure has been dismantled.

There can’t be a high-speed railroad, because it would take more than four years to get the right-of-way and create a route without crossing gates or sharp curves. In any case, the role of railroads and other transportation has been to increase real estate prices along the routes. But in this case, real estate would be torn down – and having a high-speed rail does not increase land values.

The stock market has soared to new heights, anticipating lower taxes on corporate profits and a deregulation of consumer, labor and environmental protection. Trump may end up as America’s Boris Yeltsin, protecting U.S. oligarchs (not that Hillary would have been different, merely cloaked in a more colorful identity rainbow). The U.S. economy is in for Shock Therapy. Voters should look to Greece to get a taste of the future in this scenario.

Without a coherent response to neoliberalism, Trump’s billionaire cabinet may do to the United States what neoliberals in the Clinton administration did to Russia after 1991: tear out all the checks and balances, and turn public wealth over to insiders and oligarchs. So Trump’s his best chance to be transformative is simply to be America’s Yeltsin for his party’s oligarchic backers, putting the class war back in business.

What a Truly Transformative President Would Do/Would Have Done

No administration can create a sound U.S. recovery without dealing with the problem that caused the 2008 crisis in the first place: over-indebtedness. The only one way to restore growth, raise living standards and make the economy competitive again is a debt writedown. But that is not yet on the political horizon. Obama’s doublecross of his voters in 2009 prevented the needed policy from occurring. Having missed this chance in the last financial crisis, a progressive policy must await yet another crisis. But so far, no political party is preparing a program to juxtapose to Republican-Democratic austerity and scale-back of Social Security, Medicare and social spending programs in general.

Also no longer on the horizon is a more progressive income tax, or a public option for health care – or for banking, or consumer protection against financial fraud, or for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, or for a revived protection of labor’s right to unionize, or environmental regulations.

It seems that only a new party can achieve these aims. At the time these essays are going to press, Sanders has committed himself to working within the Democratic Party. But that stance is based on his assumption that somehow he can recruit enough activists to take over the party from Its Donor Class.

I suspect he will fail. In any case, it is easier to begin afresh than to try to re-design a party (or any institution) dominated by resistance to change, and whose idea of economic growth is a pastiche of tax cuts and deregulation. Both U.S. parties are committed to this neoliberal program – and seek to blame foreign enemies for the fact that its effect is to continue squeezing living standards and bloating the financial sector.

If this slow but inexorable crash does lead to a political crisis, it looks like the Republicans may succeed in convening a new Constitutional Convention (many states already have approved this) to lock the United States into a corporatist neoliberal world. Its slogan will be that of Margaret Thatcher: TINA – There Is No Alternative.

And who is to disagree? As Trotsky said, fascism is the result of the failure of the left to provide an alternative.


[1] Yves Smith, “Women Skeptical of the Women’s March,” Naked Capitalism, February 10, 2017.

[2] Radhika Desai, “Decoding Trump,” Counterpunch, February 10, 2017.

[3] “Pelosi denies Democrats are divided on strategy for 2018,” Yahoo News, February 10, 2018. https://www.yahoo.com/news/pelosi-denies-democrats-are-divided-on-strategy-for-2018-194337876.html

[4] Ibid.

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  1. ambrit

    As long as the people of America had a reasonable expectation of gaining a better life, or, the next best thing, that their children would gain that better life, the Social Contract remained strong. Aspiration was both a spur to striving within the existing system, and a palliative for most discontents encountered. Where the status quo did not offer any real hope, the Civil Rights for minorities being an example, more “robust” methods were necessary, and were employed. What else is civil disobedience but counter violence against the State? Naturally, the State ramps up it’s ‘violence’ in an attempt to quash the disaffected masses.

    In this struggle, optics and expectations are crucial. As Gil Scott-Heron famously invoked; “The revolution will not be televised.” Paradoxically, by ensuring the wide dissemination of images of the nascent “Revolution,” activists ensured that whatever came out of the Days of Rage would not be a true revolution. The newsreels of couloured people bravely enduring police oppression in the American South guaranteed that that particular issue would not be dumped down Orwell’s “Memory Hole.” Television footage of young American men fighting and dying in Vietnam spurred the families of those who could even potentially be drafted to go overseas to die for their country to take to the streets and vote against the war and the warmongers. Gay rights is generally considered to have begun to take form and substance after the “Stonewall Riots” in New York in 1969. See: https://www.socialistalternative.org/stonewall-riots-1969/ By “going postal,” the New York gays declared loud and proud that the old way of doing business was no longer acceptable to them.

    As Mr. Hudson explained in the piece, the operatives of what Gore Vidal called the Property Party, (which has two right wings,) co-opted each successive movement. Lower middle class and working class people had the Koch brothers funded Tea Party pushed on them. The DNC sponsored “identity groups” quickly sucked all originality out of the various specious “identities” so represented. On the war front, the Pentagon imposed “embedment” upon journalists. In each case, the viewpoints of the “average” person so involved were restricted to vistas guaranteed to promote the “sponsored” agenda. Thus, the present assault upon “alternative” media makes sense from a status quo perspective. It is all about control of the dialogue.

    The main strength of the old style identity politics is it’s ability to focus the energies of participants toward a particular goal. To that end, the concept of the “United Front” is useful. You watch my back, I’ll show up at your demonstration is the operative concept. Thus, the development and widespread dissemination of images of a uniting “struggle” are needed. All of this is actually self evident. What is needed are “leaders” ready to stand up and shout it out over the rooftops.

    When Paul Revere made his famous ride, he was actually stopped by British troops before he could reach either Concord or Lexington, Massachusetts. A companion, a Dr. Prescott made the actual warnings to the American rebels. Revere and Prescott were members of an extensive Patriot organization. A Doctor and an Artisan, two usually distinct social classes at the time were collaborating towards a common goal. A “United Front” made the American Revolution. See: http://www.biography.com/news/paul-reveres-ride-facts Today’s struggle can proceed no differently.

    1. Ulysses

      Awesome comment!

      I wonder if single-payer health care might be a powerful, unifying cause for our times?

      1. Bklyn

        It might be. Obamacare is now unaffordable for people with incomes above the subsidy limits. Two friends, independent workers, are paying $900 a month. A couple, $1,700. All are over 50. But they also know the GOP would likely raise their rates even further or leave them with useless coverage.

        If anything, the GOP healthcare effort might have offered people a little more clarity about how the current system works. Public options, single payer or something along those lines would be a real blessing.

        1. ScottW

          I pay over $1500/mo. for my me and my wife. When I tell my friends about the 20% increase, they don’t say much. Both are on company provided health insurance. Therein lies the problem. As with every social ill, if you don’t directly experience the pain, it is hard to get worked up about it. I think the majority of Americans reaction to Medicare for All is, “How will that affect my current plan?” Once the disinformation machine rears its ugly head, support dwindles. Sad.

          1. RUKidding

            Even company provided health care is going up, up, up. I am a govt employee, and not all of my premiums are covered by my govt employer. Plus my deductibles and other costs have risen. IOW, complete crappification of my “health care.” It’s not as dire as what people experience when they’re on their own, but it’s not great, either.

            I’m not sure what is happening the private sector where companies still offer health insurance to their employees. I can’t imagine it’s any better. The type of health insurance I have now is what’s considered to be among the best on offer. It still sucks.

            1. ohioprole

              Well, let me tell you.

              I live in the Akron, Ohio area and currently work in a distribution center for a nationally known manufacturer of consumer goods. The plan I turned down cost $82/mo for the privilege of paying the first $2400 if I need something outside of preventative care. After that the insurance company kicks in a percentage (I don’t recall the split) until my out-of-pocket maxes out at something over $5000. I don’t have it. I’m making $14/hr and this is better than similar work in the area. I’m sure this is better than the exchange plans, but for me it is still unaffordable.

            2. just_kate

              Ginormous MNC, hugely profitable. For 2017 they dropped all plans but 1 and its HSA with 3 levels to choose from. I chose the middle of the road and now pay 180 a month and have to pay the first 7K up front outside of preventative care. Different states have different negotiated rates as well which was never disclosed so people are finding higher costs this year for the same services as last year when they were under a different plan. There are a few hundred bucks in wellness credits you can earn by participating in some game themed wellness program. I am lucky – colleagues with health issues have said it’s basically worthless and are trying to opt out. Between the premiums and co pays they don’t have enough income to regularly save for the out of pocket.

      2. ambrit

        It could be Ulysses if it is framed as being of benefit for everyone. “Universal” schemes aren’t always perceived as being “all inclusive.” The word “communitarian” comes to mind when this subject arises. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communitarianism Such a framing is anathema to neoliberalism. I’m constantly reminded that the meanings of words change in the public interpretation of them over time. Today’s ‘Liberal’ is not the Eighteenth Centuries ‘liberal.’ The Classical Greek ‘Demos’ is not today’s ‘demos.’ It’s time for some more dialectic action.

        1. Ulysses

          “It’s time for some more dialectic action.”

          Yes! If not us, who? If not now, when?

          Small business owners should be the strongest proponents of single-payer, since it would level the playing field for them. Why should mega-corporations be the only ones able to afford giving their employees decent healthcare?

          The main reason Social Security has lasted as long as it has is that everyone who pays into it is entitled to benefits, rich and poor alike.

      3. susan the other

        The bean counters in the budget office are fine-tuning health care to a fare-thee-well. It’s a lot like the Fed fine-tuning interest rates to protect the value of the dollar. The Fed has messed around with the stats in order to achieve what used to be the 6% solution – 6% unemployment kept wage-price inflation down – but this must now be closer to 15% to achieve support of the dollar. Likewise a big shell game is going on in health care. Obamacare only dared to remedy those who are virtually deprived of health care, which is a national disgrace no matter how you tweak it, but Obamacare has proved too expensive for all concerned and is imploding because the health care “industry”, just like the finance industry, needs to screw the bottom 15% in order to make their sacred profits. If all of us gradually get as screwed as the poorest 15% among us, then we’ll see a scramble by the politicians. It looks like this will happen, but not today. Donald Trump does not have the leverage.

      4. jerry

        The problem with single payer, besides the obvious corporate interests aligned against it, is that you also need to have a jobs program passed basically at the same time, or else it’s a non starter. Our economy literally lives off of administrative waste and monopolized industries. So yes, its great to get single payer, but at the same time you will be adding millions of unemployed workers who once worked for this parasitic, broken industry.

        Single payer and JG in one swoop? That’s a tall order.

    2. Jagger

      A Doctor and an Artisan, two usually distinct social classes at the time were collaborating towards a common goal

      “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” A bit of wisdom from the mind of Ben Franklin in the early days of the revolution.

      1. ambrit

        Wonderful! Dr. Franklin would be considered a “radical” even by today’s standards. “The more things change…..”

    3. steelhead23

      Let us remember, when a college student asked Rep. Nancy Pelosi whether the party might move toward a more socialistic economic system, she answered, “We’re capitalists. That’s just the way it is.“, and went on to support a return to noblesse oblige, completely failing to grasp the contradiction between modern neoliberal theology (maximizing shareholder return/profits) and such niceties as paying a living wage. We the left have a problem we need to attack head-on – our semantics have been demonized. Socialism is widely disparaged as subordinating individual will to the state – as tyranny – and the MSM often portrays economic downturns in social democracies (Venezuela, Argentina) as caused by foolish socialist policies, not broadscale economic issues (oil glut), or financial stupidity of prior governments (Argentina). I applaud Senator Sanders for continuing to use the moniker “social democrat” as he has done much to legitimize the word. We need more. Ich bin ein social democrat.

      1. ambrit

        Oh yes, and I remember wondering when I first read about that “interaction,” just what did Pelosi really mean by Capitalist? As someone else here remarked, she might have been confusing capitalist with corporatist in her mind.

        1. polecat

          ‘Crony’ capitalists is what she really meant …..

          Ah … the Crony California Quotient … Always looking out for them and theirs’ !

          1. ambrit

            The Motto: “What’s theirs is theirs and what’s ours is theirs.”
            I can see it now. Werner Oland as Charlie Chan in “The Mysteries of Crony Island,” run as a double bill with “The Silent Partners,” a politico crime drama directed by Anthony Mann. Pass the popcorn polecat.

      2. Gman

        Doctrinaire [adj]

        seeking to impose a doctrine in all circumstances without regard to practical considerations:

        1. ‘Nancy Pelosi asked whether the party might move toward a more socialistic economic system, she answered, “We’re capitalists. That’s just the way it is.“

        1. pissed younger baby boomer

          That’s why I am changing my party status to one of the socialist parties in Oregon .

      3. Nick

        Latest emergence of this ridiculousness is a dem party tweet that featured protesters yet pshopped out the bottom half of a socialist’s sign in a very nomsensical way.

        Retained: Trump is the symptom

        Erased: capitalism is the cause, socialism is the cure

        Lol at these dullards! Why not just find another photo if so bad?!

    4. DJG

      ambrit: Excellent comment. What I would add, though, is that all three of the movements that you cite had equality as a main goal: Black people wanted equality in civil rights and civil liberties. The antiwar movement drew strength from the draft, which affected people of all classes (men most directly) and led to various unequal uses of deferments that are causes of political problems to this very day. Gay folk also wanted civil rights and civil liberties (although marriage equality may not be the proper culmination–identity politics gone divergent).

      A while back, I read Norberto Bobbio’s influential little book, Right and Left. He states that the main motivators of leftist politics are liberty, equality, and fraternité (let’s call it solidarity). And he points out that leftists usually place equality first. So to animate a new movement, we have to get back to issues of political and economic equality. The metaphor of The One Percent is a hint. That hint has to be expanded.

      1. ambrit

        Good point. The American Revolt had it’s “Committees of Correspondence.” They operated outside of the MSM of the day. The Civil Rights movement early on had the black churches as sanctuaries and disseminators of the message. The anti-war movement had both the Underground press and, unwittingly, later, the MSM of the day proclaiming the problem. In general, each information spreading system used was not a part of the “Official Version” apparatus.

        The point about equality is important. The unmentioned basis of Capitalism is competition. Competition implies inequality as the outcome. This is not true aspiration, but aspiration’s evil twin, ambition. So, the Left’s real uphill slog is going to be to frame the debate about social policy in an anti-competitive form.

        Bashing the .01% is always good fun, but, as many have remarked, and the recent failed Democrat Party campaigns have demonstrated, a positive goal is needed to really motivate and engage those of us “on the ground.” As earlier remarked, a “Single Payer” healthcare campaign, framed as an “equality” measure would do the trick. There are doubtless many other issues that would lend themselves to a similar treatment. Meld these issues into a “Progressive United Front” campaign and we will begin to see some movement.

        In essence, as the earlier socialist and communist thinkers proclaimed, the ownership of the means of production are a good place to start. Given the unequal distribution of such ownership however, the next best thing would be the control of the distribution of the fruits of production; especially germaine with the rise of automation.

        It’s time to make “We the People” great.

          1. ambrit

            I also see the dream ahead of him, beckoning, beguiling, beatifying despite the false realities around him.
            Something to believe in will generally trump something to be fearful of, in the hearts of men.

    5. marym

      Great comment and resulting discussion.

      IMO there’s not a practical electoral solution, in the sense of electing a bunch of candidates at multiple levels of government to unwind or replace all the laws, regulations/lack of regulations, court decisions, and algorithms that misgovern our lives and misappropriate our wealth.

      Building on your comment ambrit@5:29 and Ulysses@8:38:

      A – No more than 3 universal issues (Medicare for All; publicly funded tuition for post-secondary education, training, and apprenticeships; end the wars, for example). Medicare for All is part of the discussion now and should have a prominent place.

      B – Activism continues, as it must and will, in other areas: issues of survival (police violence, incarceration, homelessness and hunger; minimum wage…); support for activism across issues (Food not Bombs, ACLU and NLG, Light Brigades, local jail and bail support…); and forward-looking activism (local sustainable food and energy solutions, workplace and community coops…).

      C – Electoral politics that functions as the political arm of the movent for “A” and locally appropriate subsets of “B” issues. In practical term, this may need to be an insurgency in the Dem ranks, or more organized Greens, plus coordination with other “third” parties that have a presence and ballot access in some places.

      Then we work on ambrit’s:

      “You watch my back, I’ll show up at your demonstration”

      Adding: ”We recruit candidates who understand your issues and have policy proposals to address them, you show up to vote”.

      1. DJG

        marym: Excellent comment.

        I can’t find much on the Light Brigades. Who are they?

        And my issues at the universal level would be health care for all (with minimal fees and premiums), free education for all, an end to the endless wars, and, if I may have a fourth, expansion of Social Security with some big raises to recipients to give people a base income that they can retire on (or safely go into disability retirement). The money is there for all of these, but the political will consists of the likes of Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi.

        Yes: You watch my back, and I’ll watch your back. But “back” is defined broadly–we are all in this together.

        1. marym

          Light Brigades:

          You may have seen them!

          Agree on Social Security – that makes the set of demands inter-generational; and on “our backs.” All of us.

          1. marym

            Adding: I first recall seeing photos and tweets around the time of Occupy, or maybe just after when people were looking for other ways to claim public space. Looking around today I find they started with the Wisconsin uprising. Search on Overpass Light Brigade for specifics – I’ve seen Austin, Portland OR, NYC at various times.

            I was at a Chicago rally which they joined. There was something really nice about their participation – competent and prepared, signs wired and ready to go, someone to take photos…but I think it was something about the light.

          2. ambrit

            Ah! Sweet!
            “Half a League half a League,”
            “Half a League one-ward,”
            (With apologies to Tennyson.)

      2. Ancient 1

        Good Comment. What bothers me is there is a lot of conversation about all our issues and proposed solutions, but I see no actions taking place. There are no leaders on the national level, other than Senator Sanders. We need a Socialist Huey Long with a big horn and perhaps a little action like, Act Up” to get things moving. There is going to be a revolt sooner or later. It will get to a point where ordinary people, especially our young, who will not take it anymore.

        1. ambrit

          We see more and more discontent all around us in our little southern Metropolis. More petty crime, more angry confrontations over what would be, in more settled times, trivial things, more sirens in the night, literally so. Whenever the “revolt” gets started, it will take on a life of it’s own. No one will be able to get in front of it and call it a parade. I didn’t understand the idea of “currents of history” until recently. We’re beginning to see the light. More people than anyone suspects are stirring out of their sleep. Chinese Curse time is upon us.

  2. PH

    Love Hudson, but no one is right about everything.

    He accepts as an article of faith that it would be easier to start a new party than win primaries in Dem party. Not clear at all.

    Also, while I agree Dems are dominated by Blue Dogs who want to use Wall Street money to run Repub lite candidates in purple states, and that their appeal to identity politics is manipulative and a way to deflect from economic issues, it does not logically follow that voters do not often think of themselves and their goals in terms of racism or religion or guns. Their are cultural “us v them” identities that have a powerful effect on politics.

    I agree with Hudson’s critique of FIRE and the problem of debt in our society. But it is not easy to explain to the general public — which would not recognize the acronym. And what exactly is the Hudson platform to address debt or FIRE now? I understand the argument (as I understand it) that 2009 was an opportunity to use bankruptcy of Wall Street to break up economic olarchy and write down debt for homeowners. I agree. I am angry and frustrated by the lost opportunity. I also understand the sly reference to having to wait for the next crisis to get another chance. Why do we have to wait? This is Hudson’s concession that there is no general understanding of the debt problem or support for Willy-Nilly support for dismantling Wall Street or existing debt relationships.

    I am convinced by Hudson that rising housing prices are a scam for loading debt on people and raising the burden of a rentier class. But most people who own houses are excited when you tell them housing prices are going up. What exactly should be our political message.

    Some districts have strong evangelical communities and find abortion to be the top issue year in andvyear out. Some evangelicals stuck with Trump in the hope of a Supreme Court that will outlaw abortion. How to Dems or a new Hudson party win in those districts?

    Politics is a fluid business. Forget coalition building (extremely tough), even finding a message for one voter (who may be of 2 or 3. Or 4 minds about the world, and change views daily, is tough.

    In my view, a Progressive majority must be put together piece by piece, place by place, from the ground up. Bernie articulated a place to start. The Schumer crowd own the Dems now, but it is a fragile hold. We can beat them if we find common sense solutions to our problems and articulate those ideas to our neighbors. We need energy and hard work, but it is not clear that a third party is needed.

      1. a different chris

        Are you sure? Because I’m not. I think the rest of the people probably think pretty much like the ones that voted. The skew in the youth, for example, I expect would be skewed back by the youth that don’t vote because if they did it would reflect the fact that they have no idea wth is going on so they’ll just vote like their parents.

        Just my unsupported beliefs.

        Anyway we got to work with the electorate we’ve got, not the one we wish we had. A federal holiday for voting (and parties! I mean real parties with cake and beer not political parties) still would be a good thing to test your theory.

      2. John k

        Doubt it. Those that are voting are probably more informed than those that can’t be bothered or even those that are discouraged.
        Granted Bernie was increasing turnout of aware voters, many of which couldn’t tell which nominee was least bad.

    1. Carolinian

      Why do we have to wait?

      Because we have a political system–from the Fed to the Congress to the media–that is designed to keep current arrangements in place. Public complacency has allowed this to happen and now only another systemic breakdown is likely to force change on an entrenched elite and confused electorate. One might hope that the Democratic party would be the necessary force for reform but it’s surely clear by now that its leadership intends to go down with the ship. Time for the rest of us to pile into the lifeboats (a third party). And even if one believes there is hope for the Dems, it’s unlikely they will change without some serious threat to their power and that would be a viable third party. For much of the country’s history there were lots of third parties and splinter movements which is what one would expect from such a diverse population. The duopoly is a very artificial arrangement.

      Sanders should never have taken this third party threat off the table and it is why the Dem leadership doesn’t take him seriously. It’s also a reason for some of the rest of us to question his seriousness. “Don’t want to be the Nader” isn’t the sort of call to arms that has one putting up the Che posters.

      1. PH

        I think Bernie made a big impact precisely because he got so many votes in the Dem party. Previously, the conventional wisdom was that this was impossible.

        If Bernie had run third party, he would have been more easily marginalized and silenced as a fringe candidate.

        I agree with you that attempts to negotiate with Dem leadership are useless. The effective and necessary threat is primary challenge. Not easy. But easier and faster than a third party. In my view.

        1. Carolinian

          Did Bernie have a big impact? The mainstream media mostly ignore him and the Dems go out of their way to ignore him by running Perez. And didn’t the Bernie endorsed primary challengers in the last cycle do poorly?

          You will only get the elites’ attention by threatening their power, not their message. Obviously establishing a viable third party is extremely difficult which is why I agree with Hudson that it will take the next crisis to change things. Incrementalism has been shown not to work.

          1. FluffytheObeseCat

            Perez only got 235 votes; Sanders’ candidate Ellison got 200. The Democratic Party establishment did not “ignore” Sanders by running Perez. They were semi-desperately trying to block him (and his cohort) from advancing on a low rung on the ladder to power.

            Primary challenges across the nation, in every city council and state assembly race. Again and again. Then on to the governorships and federal offices. This is the swiftest, least expensive and least damaging way to power for Sanders partisan. We could take over the party in under ten years if this tactic were widely deployed.

            1. barefoot charley

              Wikileaks made it plain what the Democrats do to mavericks who win races without a party bit in their mouths. The corruption is institutional, it is their operatives’ identity. A successful third party will be very difficult to achieve, but is perhaps possible. A useful Democratic party is not possible until every careerist is unemployed–ie until their employers run out of money. That can’t come about, as long as there are empowered Democrats and Republicans.

              1. sid_finster

                Primary challenges in every Team D corporate candidate’s primary, and then, when Team D acts like, well, Team D, run as an independent/green/whatever.

            2. Jeff W


              Primary challenges across the nation, in every city council and state assembly race. Again and again. Then on to the governorships and federal offices. This is the swiftest, least expensive and least damaging way to power for Sanders partisan. We could take over the party in under ten years if this tactic were widely deployed.

              I agree with this statement.

              And it’s happening: various groups (Our Revolution, Brand New Congress, Justice Democrats, and probably others) are planning primary challengers in just that way. And it’s already happened at the local and district level in California. It’s a different political environment than even just a few years ago and it will be even still more different when some (or, let’s hope, many) of these candidates start winning.

    2. Norb

      The real problem is corporatism. The power to make decisions on public policy has been transferred from democratic government to corporations, run by oligarchs. Both political parties in the US are committed to this political arrangement. The thin veneer of democracy is used to check public dissatisfaction. In short order, even this facade will be deemed unnecessary and discarded. This consolidation of power was enabled by masking class consciousness. Worker aspirations mirror their corporate masters. Life consists of maximizing personal wealth in the form of money and possessions. Mass media provides the conduit to achieve this conditioning.

      Trying to rebuild the Democratic party form within is a waste of energy and time that most citizens don’t have. If anything, the existing political establishment has perfected the techniques and tools needed to make dissent impotent. This is largely accomplished by perpetuating the myth that change can occur by working within the existing system, and then undermining effective policy that would focus on worker interests. The chumps get scraps.

      In the end, oligarchy is the cost that must be paid for our modern life of convenience and endless entertainment. Moving forward must be about rejection. Rejection of the current social and cultural order. A new party, a true workers party, is needed to restore equilibrium to the existing power imbalance. The mass of people who have dropped out of the workforce and electoral system are waiting for leadership to offer a better vision for the future. This vision is not forthcoming because the human imagination must turn outside the existing failed norms and seek new horizons removed from capitalist ideology. Political power follows or grows naturally from a social order, not the other way around. Imposed social orders are always unstable and need violence to maintain. A way of life determines the political possibilities. This is why those wanting change must always work outside the existing system, both mentally and physically.

      Just as crony capitalist ideology turned the notion of individual freedom on its head to justify the greatest inequality known to human societies, the remedy centers on the rejection of exploitive violence. It is based on preservation, regeneration, and a spiritual awareness that one must give back to the world and not only take from it. To my mind, coalitions built on these principles stretch across all social groups. Spending time, money, and energy building these networks and infrastructure will be productive and longer lasting. Strikes, boycotts, and dropping out of the existing system sends a much more powerful message to the oligarchs. They will respond with violence, but then their true nature is open for all to see, making it easier for others to reject their ideology.

      Capitalism was born of Feudalism. Individual rights superseding the rights of Kings. Nothing lasts forever. A post- capitalist world must be first envisioned and then articulated. Capitalism maintained the inequality and hierarchical use of violence of the previous system. This relationship forms most of the underlying root causes of intractable problems faced today. Egalitarianism provides a way and an alternative. Socialist ideas can be suppressed but never eradicated. Human social evolution points in this direction. Slavery will never return. The human spirt will not allow it.

      1. PH

        Your note has a 1930s sound to me. Spain, maybe.

        Anyway, strikes and boycotts and dropping out do not sound effective to me. And it is not what Mr. Hudson suggested, as I understand it. I think he was talking about a third party in elections. That requires engagement.

        1. Persona au gratin

          I love the ideas too, but they sound a tad unrealistic to me as well. And although oligarchy might well be a necessary evil, it must at least be regulated and occasionally broken up where it becomes too concentrated, as it seems it will always tend to become.

        2. two beers

          Your note has a 1930s sound to me. Spain, maybe.

          What a cavalier and condescending dismissal. With an arrogant wave of the hand, history goes *poof*. And though you “agree” (how generous of you!) )with some of the symptoms Hudson identifies, you categorically deny what he identifies as the root systemic cause of those ills. Instead, a little modest, cautious, sensible, “piece by piece”, “place by place” reform around the edges, and everything will work out just fine in its own time, because abortion.

          You are an exemplary and model Democrat, and Exhibit A why left politics will never emerge from within the Democrat Party.

          1. PH

            To get elected, you need a message that resonates with the voters.

            There are a lot of reasons that a revolutionary Left never emerged from the Dem party.

          2. jrs

            although it may be an uphill climb now, striking and unionizing still sounds infinitely less pie in the sky and far more brass tacks and addressing some of the actual problems, than creating a 3rd party in the U.S.. If that is one’s solution they have no right to criticize anyone on their proposals not being practical. At least striking has some history of actually working.

            1. Norb

              Capitalists need labor both to built their produce and buy their wares. Not to mention needing cannon fodder for their wars. Globalism is not working and won’t last in the long run- baring an enlightened global society working together for all humanity- now that is pie in the sky. A globetrotting oligarchic elite does not make a stable society. What simpler method to express dissatisfaction than withhold labor or not to purchase? It brings the oppression out in the open and forces the owners to act. Baring actual physical violence, or removing yourself to a different community, all else has proven futile.

              People are still operating under the false notion that what works for business is best for society on whole. Unless major industries are nationalized and run for the benefit for all society, progress will not be made. Progress being defined as the elimination of suffering. Is it such of a stretch to understand Hudson’s argument that classical economics was the desire to free society from the constraints of unproductive rent seeking? Society is made more productive when essential services are subsidized by government taking the economic burden off the small holder. Communications, healthcare, transportation, education, scientific research, and various forms of public security are but a few.

        3. Norb

          It is the participation in our own destruction that I am trying to express and get my head around. Engagement by all means, but somehow the rules need to be changed.

          The amount of time, energy, and resources needed to engage in effective politics today is prohibitive to most citizens. What Hudson is saying is that the two party system in America is broken and the only way forward is to start anew. I would tend to agree. In my lifetime, the Democratic party has been reforming for close to 40 years now. That is a long time to be ineffectual concerning worker’s interests. The long dissent of the American workforce is reaching critical mass and some radical thinking and action is needed.

          The left needs to develop some productive alternatives, which again Hudson points out. An egalitarian alternative needs to be articulated. Candidates running for office as socialists, espousing actual socialist ideals. Win or loose, speaking in public about socialist ideals can only help. Government sponsorship of small business and cooperatives over monopolistic corporations. Actually running and building sustainable communities. As was stated in comments, Sanders raised upwards of 240 million dollars during the last campaign. What is there to show for all that effort and resource depletion?

          An actual show of distain for the elite ruling class for their crass barbarism and masked cruelty is a start. Followed by actually building something of lasting value.

          1. Ancient 1

            March 26 at 3:37 pm

            Thanks for your comments. I agree with you and find others beating on a tin drum. We do not have much time. These Elites in the democratic party are not going to change and the grass roots can’t being about change for years. Meanwhile the neocons and neoliberals are further destroying the Republic and one morning we will wake up to a nightmare.

          2. Marina Bart

            Speaking as someone who donated precious funds to Bernie, I bitterly resent the primary theft by the Clintonians, but feel I got a lot of value for my monetary contribution to Bernie. Despite the simmering anger, fear and despair, I am not sure we would be anywhere near as far as we are in awakening the population to both the rigged nature of the game and the viability of the left alternatives for governance without Bernie’s primary run. Lots of people gained valuable grassroots organizing experience and training. Potentially important activist networks were built and interconnected, in ways that would have been impossible without Bernie’s leadership, his existing networks and relationships, his symbolic role, the energizing importance of a Presidential race in American life, and all that money pouring in to build with.

            While we’re all debating whether to start a new party or not, remember that the most important thing we can all do is the easiest: vote against every establishment Democrat, at every level of government, at every electoral stage. It doesn’t really matter whether you vote for insurgents, or Republicans, or third parties, as long as you vote AGAINST the establishment Democrat every time. Whether we can purge them out of the party and take it over or not, we need them organizationally weak and economically impoverished. Their innate corruption and incompetence should help immensely.

            1. Norb

              Creating a world based on socialist principles is a difficult process because in many ways it truly is a creative process. You must take the materials of the world and create something from scratch, like a work of art or an object of true craftsmanship. The neoliberal world is not a human world in any sense I would like to live in- by choice. It is violent and brutal.

              The point of human civilization and culture is to raise humanity out of that state. To form a barrier to an unforgiving world. What form that barrier takes will determine our evolution as a species. A porous barrier allowing various exchanges to occur with the local environment or a impervious bunker like relationship. A creative process needs to focus on opening a space for joy and happiness to exist.

              I agree with you that the effort to support Bernie was not wasted. His efforts, the efforts of Occupy, the Ferguson protests, BLM, and many others are making a difference and opening the minds of many for the first time. People can even openly talk about Socialism and Marxism. Offering a critique of the capitalist system is even allowed, however uncomfortable it may be. None of this pressure will stop.

              There is a dimension though that the Left is neglecting. That of the human spirt and how to care for it. A spiritual level that rises above money and everyday life needs and concerns. Capitalists are a religion unto themselves, and as the final arbiter, use violence to settle challenges to their ultimate authority. They are masters of manipulation.

              What is missing are physical places where those wanting change can gather and find solidarity in the face of hardship. A place of refuge where the left politics and spirituality has not been stripped out of the experience.

              Radical churches, meeting halls for regular lectures, craft workshops for skills training, hospitals focused on human care instead of profit. (Think of that spiritual power that has been contaminated by the drive for profit!)

              There is a need to bring back what once was.

      2. FluffytheObeseCat

        The “masses of people who have dropped out of the workforce” are old, overweight, have multiple physcial deficits and are hooked on at least 2 types of prescription dope. They will not be manning your nostalgia-draped barricades. Not ever.

        1. jrs

          alrighty, everyone who can’t get a job is overweight and a drug addict and unhealthy etc.. Get real. Old sometimes has something to do with it, just because companies do age discriminate in hiring.

        2. Ancient 1

          Watch what say about us. I am eighty and I will stand at the barricade, but where will you be when bedlam arrives at your door?

      3. perpetualWAR

        I have already un-registered to vote.

        I now am working to undermine the political system after spending 10 years trying to protect the homeowners from the crime-ridden financial system.

        I can’t “beat ’em” but I can sure de-legitimize them

    3. tegnost

      I agree with Hudson’s critique of FIRE and the problem of debt in our society. But it is not easy to explain to the general public — which would not recognize the acronym.
      People are not a miniscule fraction as stupid as you think they are, and I will posit that this is one of, if not the main problem with democrat loyalists such as yourself.
      first you say this…
      “Also, while I agree Dems are dominated by Blue Dogs who want to use Wall Street money to run Repub lite candidates in purple states, and that their appeal to identity politics is manipulative and a way to deflect from economic issues,”
      shorter, I realize democrats don’t represent you, and that’s too bad but you have no other option and PH doesn’t want you to have another option.
      followed by…
      “…it does not logically follow that voters do not often think of themselves and their goals in terms of racism or religion or guns. Their are cultural “us v them” identities that have a powerful effect on politics.”
      Is this unmoored jab at rural identity not a double negative that can be rephrased “it logically follows that voters think of themselves in terms of racism or religion or guns”? and isn’t that just another way of saying people are stupid and you are not because you can hide your class and race bias behind a double negative, and people being stupider than you will never know it because clever, but clever ain’t working anymore, and isn’t likely to start working any time soon. You close with a call for incrementalism…yeah that’s worked really great for all of us in the hoi polloi, and you don’t fail to mention abortion, the only democrat platform, and schumer et al’s “fragile grip” is in reality an “iron law of institutions” grip and they and you are not going to let go.
      “We can beat them if we find common sense solutions to our problems and articulate those ideas to our neighbors. We need energy and hard work, but it is not clear that a third party is needed.”
      so who is this “we” kemo sabe? I am in the veal pen. Come into the veal pen with me. We will be in the veal pen…thanks but no thanks. I’ve had plenty of common sense discussions with my neighbors, and it’s depressing as we all know none of those sensible policies will be enacted by the useless to the common citizen and enabler to the criminals on wall street democrat party, rotten to it’s core.

      1. PH

        I said that the FIRE critique is not well known or generally accepted. I think that is accurate. I said that to make a political campaign based on that critique you would need specific proposals. Mr Hudson offered none in this piece, and seemed to concede that there is no support for writing down debt systematically, absent a crisis. I think that is correct.

        We were a long time getting to where we are today. I doubt all the problems will be fixed in the blink of an eye. But I am open to nonviolent suggestions.

        1. paintedjaguar

          All right, here’s a suggestion. Stop patting yourself on the back for being up on “insider baseball” jargon. First rule: You don’t get to complain that people don’t know what “FIRE” is when you toss around acronyms without identifying them.

          The first use of such terms in a conversation should at least give them their full name, and if necessary a brief contextual explanation. After that you can resort to the convenience of acronyms and other shorthand without actually hindering your supposed objectives.

          1. Vatch

            Michael Hudson used the acronym in his article without defining it, so the commenters really aren’t the ones at fault. Finance, Insurance, Real Estate.

    4. Oregoncharles

      @ PH, way back there:
      The record so far, for at least the last 30 years, is that attempts to “take back” or “reform” the Democratic Party only drive it further to the right – because that’s what progressives have been doing, and that’s what happened.

      Even Bernie’s remarkable campaign underlines the lesson: he lost not because the DNC cheated, but because he lost the primaries with only 47%. That isn’t surprising; DP policies have been so right wing for so long that the remnant qualified to vote in the primaries now is, also. And we saw in the Party Chair election just how thorough the right-wingers’ grip is.

      On a purely practical basis, it’s probably a tossup: both are very difficult, which does not bode well for our future. So the real question is: what do you get, for either effort? Do you get a fresh start that could draw in the majorities of Americans that support a whole laundry list of progressive policies, many of whom don’t vote any more; or do you get a compromised mish-mash?

      Polls on party affiliation – essentially, what party people will admit to a pollster that they support – show that the “major” parties have barely a majority, COMBINED. “Independents” – everybody else – are a massive plurality, soon to be a majority at recent rates. (Gallup: Dems, 25%; Reps, 28%; Independents, 47%. Other polls show slightly different numbers but the same trend, since 2006.) Might be a good name for a party – and indeed, there is an “Independent Party” in Oregon, which recently qualified as a MAJOR party. It has very little policy substance.

      You pays your money and makes your choice; involvement in the Democratic Party just feels disgusting and dirty, to me. The biggest caveat: last year, the more-or-less left went off in about 4 different directions, including “home.” Even here on NC. That’s just spinning our wheels.

      1. sid_finster

        You don’t think that the overwhelming media message that “she’s inevitable” combined with the relentlessly negative coverage of Bernie (when he got any coverage at all) and DNC assistance to the Clinton campaign (not to mention allegations of outright vote suppression and fraud) had anything to do with HRC “winning”?

  3. Paul Greenwood

    Федеральное агентство по управлению государственным имуществом (Росимущество) was what created Oligarchs under Yeltsin. It was headed by Chubais who helped make Khordorovsky and the rest of the Oligarchs incredibly rich. He then headed the 1996 Re-Election Campaign for Unpopular Yeltsin and bought victory and sold off State assets for nugatory worth.

    Khordorovsky was to deliver Yukos to Exxon and let US interests control Russia’s natural resources. Berezhovsky needed a “roof” – he had Chechens protecting his outside interests but once Yeltsin’s liver gave out the KGB Siloviki would put The Family on trial so he found Putin as a Lieut-Col. with a background in St Petersburg where Chubais had been active for Sobchak also. Putin was the “roof” to keep the KGB from executing the looters for treason.

    Like a new Tsar with Boyars, Putin had to find which were his “Oligarchs” and Berezhovsky turned his assets over to Abramovich who is Putin’s man. Chubais now sits on CFR and JP Morgan Board for his good works.

  4. jackiebass

    Trump won on the slogan Make America Great. I live in upstate NY which is strong republican. These people thought the slogan meant great for them. That coupled with a bitter hate of Clinton made it easy for Trump to get their vote. A sad thing is that these voters are very uninformed and depend on what they know from corporate media especially FOX news. None of them know what Neoliberal means and that the root of their problems lie with neoliberal policies. When I tell them that Obama and Cuomo aren’t really democrats but moderate republicans they think I’m out of my mind. I tend to look at thing objectively based on verifiable facts.Most of these voters look at issues in an emotional way. They will say Obamacare is bad and need to be repealed. When you ask them how it’s bad the best they can come up with is it forces you to buy insurance and you can’t keep your own doctor. I guess what I’m saying is that the average voter is too lazy to get informed and relies on the political propaganda fed to them. At 75 years old I don’t see that the immediate future will change much. The only hope I see is in the young of our country. Unless someone or a movement can educate them about the evils that are destroying their future, democracy is dead. Because of how the economy is structured the economic future for most of the population is grim. They will not be able to afford to retire and will live in poverty. Perhaps this will wake them up. Unfortunately it will be too late for them.

    1. UserFriendly

      People are all sheep. No one thinks, they just vote based on emotions. I have never seen that more blatantly laid bare then in this one article.


      Which ties in nicely with the slate star codex piece from yesterday.

      At best we can work at the margin on the handful of people that are capable of rational thought. Which is why nothing ever changes, appeals to emotion are always more potent than appeals to reason. There is no solution.

      1. John Wright

        I also agree that there is no solution, certainly not an evolutionary solution via EITHER of the two parties.

        The big changes in the USA occurred during the Great Depression as financial reform was introduced, the idea of government infrastructure could provide employment and what I believe is little mentioned, an increased awareness on the part of many that their success was not achieved solely by their own efforts.

        Many of the USA’s post war corporate executives should have remembered that their families struggled during the thirties, and this may have made them more connected with their employees and communities.

        Now we have a government of the internally connected top 10%, with the bottom 90% detached and watching from outside.

        And CEO’s and the executive class have loyalty only to their company’s stock price.

        The recent rehabilitation of serial screw-up George W. Bush and attempted elevation of serial screw-up Hillary Clinton is direct evidence that the political class does not care how much harm they do to the “deplorable” voters they appeal to every 2/4/6 years.

        With the money sloshing around DC and the media control of content, how does one replace the leadership of both parties with more progressive people in any reasonable time frame?

        Per Mark Blyth, Global Trumpism is the current response, but what will this morph into after Global Trumpism hangover manifests?.

        1. Norb

          Climate change and ecological disruption will provide many opportunities to shock people into action. Like all Empires, real change will occur from outside pressure. As the Empire is weakened from a hollowed out center, exterior pressure will eventually bring it down or greatly reduce its influence. Similar to a collapsing sun.

          Individuals are left to what they always have, their own wits and personal knowledge and living skills. Morals and a social conscience are indispensable in times of crisis. I have a higher regard for the general US public and in a way Americans are very lucky to live in such an abundant land. The potential for a peaceful existence with your fellows is easily achievable. The resources for a simple subsistence are all around.

          Now if government policy can only be changed to stop subsidizing exploitation by corporations, life would be much better.

          1. PH

            I agree with this comment.

            We need leadership. People who come to this site are good candidates to be those leaders, in my view.

      2. sundayafternoon

        I think although it may seem that only a small percent of the population is capable of rational thought I think this is actually not the case and its more productive (and optomistic) to think of this issue in terms of a behaviour rather than a fixed capability, like how some ancient Greek philosophers thought about moral behaviour or how some modern phychologists think about psychopathy. Almost everyone is capable of rational thought (or moral or psychopathitic behaviour) but its how often or more precisly in what situations an individual decides to engage in or deploy rational thought.

        1. jrs

          Capable of rational thought really doesn’t do much good for all the things one has no exposure to. Ok in this case they may have little real understanding of say leftists ideas. And I really think they don’t. That may not be the case for the political junkies here for political ideas, but we all have our areas of things (not politics) we may have a similar stupidity about.

      3. Katharine

        Sorry, but I think that’s way too disrespectful of other people and not realistic. All, save those with extreme mental disabilities, are capable of some degree of rational thought. That doesn’t mean they can be quickly or easily convinced, but they will be more amenable to persuasion if you approach them as equals and open your mind to their reality in order to find the right terms with which to present your ideas. Bernie has shown himself to be very good at that, as are all good teachers. Those who insist on framing everything in their own terms without adapting their communication to another’s experience will always get blank stares.

          1. UserFriendly

            Well since apparently no one reads to the end of a thread before commenting and My reply went to the wrong comment and ended up at the bottom I’ll just repeat it here to preempt any more pile on.

            I’ll cop to being hyperbolic. The problem is that it is impossible to appeal to reason on any scale, not that people are incapable of it.

            Sure, Bernie is great at convincing people who are willing to listen. Most people aren’t. Even if they do listen they are usually too tied to their identity as a ______ to deviate from orthodoxy and would never even try to hear him out with an open mind. They are even less likely to be convinced by strangers who walk around their neighborhood canvasing. Most people hate changing their mind.

        1. knowbuddhau

          Well said, Katharine.

          Dehumanizing (“people are sheep”) and dismissing our neighbors as incapable of rational (good?) thinking will get us nowhere. Like I’ve said, the propaganda is working when we’re dividing and conquering ourselves. That horrid little word often seen in this context, “sheeple,” is just another word for “deplorables.”

          People are not sheep. We’ve been psyop’d senseless. “Public relations” began around the turn of the 20th century. It was ramped up by orders of magnitude after WWII. Gore Vidal quotes JFK as saying to him, we’ve entered an era in which “it is the *appearance of things that matters” (emphasis original in the TRNN video,The National Security State with Gore Vidal). Psychology and other social sciences have been weaponized and turned against us. With a facile understanding of the human mind (as if it were nothing but a mere mechanism), immense effort has gone into controlling the inputs in order to control the outputs (behavior).

          From How US Flooded the World with Psyops

          Newly declassified documents from the Reagan presidential library help explain how the U.S. government developed its sophisticated psychological operations capabilities that – over the past three decades – have created an alternative reality both for people in targeted countries and for American citizens, a structure that expanded U.S. influence abroad and quieted dissent at home.

          Today, “public opinion” is a Frankenstein’s monster. Most of my fellow Americans believe in a world that never existed and doesn’t exist right now. We can’t even agree on what happened to JFK, or MLK, or what happened on 9/11/01.

          Contra UF, it’s not that people are incapable of rational thought; rather, the information we have is hopelessly corrupted. People are acting rationally, but the numerators and denominators have been faked. On purpose. Or did the Russians really do it?

          Once again, TPTB thought they had found a magic method of machining people into permanent compliance. But they neglected the fact that relying on psyops drives people crazy. You just can’t keep rejecting real reality and substituting a manufactured Narrative (looking at you, NYT) forever.

          ISTM we’re acting without sufficient contact with reality. The effort to control the population, the better to exploit us, has driven many of us mad. Neglecting the century or so of effort that’s gone into manufacturing consent leads to blaming the victims.

          Propagandists and PSYOPeratives have put out the people’s eyes, and you berate them for their blindness?

          1. sundayafternoon

            While I would absolutely agree with everything you’ve just said and believe the facts you’ve cited are the main reason for the bleak outlook for our species, how the myriad of lies fed to the population is received is a more complex process than just plain deception. People are incredibly complex and operate on a number of levels simultaneously. For instance the notion that universal health care or a strong union would be personally beneficial, or that the banking system is corrupt and that all the wars since 1945 have been unnecessary must be known to anyone with functioning eyes and ears on a relatively conscious level, but the majority have chosen to effectively overlook this reality I believe for reasons that ultimately feed in to human predispositions for conformity. It’s ironic that our evolutionary highly successful nature of collectivism is now working against us as a species and leading to a destructive subservience that is almost sadomasochistic. If the population were to be unequivocally presented with reality I doubt many would tolerate the state we have now but conversely this would mean that the elite in our society had sanctioned truthfulness, so we would not really be going against the wishes of the powerful. Basically the fact that the powerful in our society have presented us with lies means lies are what they want us to believe, so dutifully most will oblige, however obviously at odds with reality those lies are.
            Why such an overwhelming percent of the population do not vote in their own economic interest is because political affiliations seem to be a complex expression of self-identity, something which includes attitudes, social prejudices and ‘beliefs’ that are dependent on complex emotional interactions between internal and external events, and can include for instance a desire for status within your tribe, family loyalty, even sadistic impulses. I;m probably wrong about most of this but part of me cant help feeling some of the victims share a little of the blame

            1. knowbuddhau

              >> For instance the notion that universal health care or a strong union would be personally beneficial, or that the banking system is corrupt and that all the wars since 1945 have been unnecessary must be known to anyone with functioning eyes and ears on a relatively conscious level, but the majority have chosen to effectively overlook this reality I believe for reasons that ultimately feed in to human predispositions for conformity.

              You’re projecting your knowledge and views, and then blaming people who don’t see things your way. A majority supports single payer, yes, but the rest is wishful thinking.

              If you read Zinn’s A People’s History of the US, you’ll see that even WWII was a manufactured war. I’m willing to bet a majority still thinks we were attacked out of the blue on Pearl Harbor Day, despite FDR’s plan to provoke Japan. Or that incinerating Nagasaki and Hiroshima ended the war and saved tens of thousands of US lives. There was an almost perfectly complete news blackout on the aftermath specifically so that opposition to the bombings couldn’t form. There are endless examples like this.

              We’re not told what we need to know to govern ourselves. What we are told amounts to propaganda, sometimes explicitly so.

              Yes, a lot of people have drunk the koolaid, some with gusto. Who’s pouring it? You can blame the victims all you like. I blame the people who’ve deliberately set out to deceive us.

              What our deluded brothers and sisters need is our compassion. It’s hard to have compassion for someone trying to run you over for exercising your rights (been there, done that), but no one ever said it would be easy.

        2. UserFriendly

          I’ll cope to being hyperbolic. The problem is that it is impossible to appeal to reason on any scale, not that people are incapable of it.

          1. knowbuddhau

            Good on ya. Still not sure about that assertion. If true, maybe it’s because there’s little agreement as to what world we’re living in, so there’s the same disagreement as to what counts as rational. Nevertheless our problem is to bridge that gap.

            Thankfully, we’re not limited to rational appeals. Don’t know if Mario Cuomo first coined it, but he’s credited with saying, “You campaign in poetry and govern in prose.” Poetic, artistic, metaphorical appeals go straight to the heart. No amount of data can move people like good art can.

            And IMNSHO, there’s nothing wrong with using irrational appeals, as long as they’re true. Otherwise it’s just more propaganda in the pejorative sense.

            The people
            Will never be defeated!

            Is that literally true? I can’t say. But I can work to make it so, which makes life worth living. And it’s just 7 little words.

  5. Kokuanani

    The only hope I see is in the young of our country.

    I think Trump, the Repubs and most of the Dems see that too. That’s why they’ve promoted DeVos, Arnie Duncan, and all the other advocates of “charter schools,” strangled public education, and attacked teachers.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Which means that for huge numbers of people, a Debt Jubilee is a way of throwing off THEIR OWN chains, or their offsprings’.

        Could be promising.

    1. Deadl E Cheese

      The problem with this approach is that all this does is kill off liberal cosmopolitanism, not Marxism. Marxism doesn’t need a widespread secondarily-educated population to spread. And it definitely does not need liberal cosmopolitanism as a stepping stone; quite the opposite, really. Just in the US, when the wobblies and Black Panthers started turning red, how many of their rank and file went to college or even finished high school?

      Considering that the elites are using liberal cosmopolitanism to strangle Marxism (class-only Marxists want to throw women and nonwhites under the bus to get their single-payer and you, the woke liberal identitarian, must support capitalism to protect the marginalized), this strategy is not only pointless but it’s also self-defeating.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      It’s far more simpler. Charter schools are about following the money. Public schools have seemingly huge revenue streams. Why can’t GE get a cut is the thought process? For profit Healthcare was forbidden until 1973 (thanks to Teddy), why not public schools?

      1. Rhondda

        “For profit Healthcare was forbidden until 1973…”
        I would like to learn more about this. Would you have any links or suggestions for search terms, to help get me going? Thanks.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          The HMO Act of 1973 (thanks Teddy and Tricky Dick; bipartisanship at its finest) made it easier to start and run HMOs which faced regulatory hurdles mostly due to financing. Non profits had an easier time of it hence Hospitals named “St X” or “X General.” Since the hosoital were non profits and employers made deals with the hospitals, health insurance was effectively non-profit. There gaps, mostly in rural areas. Other changes from the HMO Act of 1973 encouraged profit seeking from denial of coverage to pushing unnecessary procedures or prescriptions.

          There is a noticeable correlation between this act and the explosion of Healthcare costs.

          The Miller Center had a series on Nixon expressing doubts to the Kaiser about HMOs. The arguments played out just like charter schools today.

  6. Disturbed Voter

    The US Left has been controlled opposition since 1950. There was never a chance it could provide a reasonable and effective alternative. FBI/CIA moles make sure they never will. The Democrats have never been true Left … FDR didn’t really betray his class, he saved them from their own stupidity.

    1. BeekeeperRorie


      FDR backed the SALK vaccine for his personal profit, using himself as the poster example of why we all so desperately needed it. Then he experimented with various strains on various ethnic groups. Me and my Boston area Irish peers were told we were “born with slightly bowed legs,” which were, in fact, caused by the strain of vaccine we were injected with ostensibly to prevent TB. Many of us received leg braces in our earliest months to “correct” the “birth defect”, while others grew up with mal formed legs, the inability to dance, or to play sports competitively.

      Meanwhile, FDR raked in the cash for himself and his cronies. And unleashed this vaccine nightmare that continues unabated today. It’s no wonder Eleanor Roosevelt was so chronically pessimistic, her public profile notwithstanding.

      1. Katharine

        Where on earth did you get this nonsense? FDR died years before the Salk vaccine was even developed; he certainly did not “rake in cash” from something that was not licensed till over ten years after his death. He simply founded a nonprofit foundation to raise money for research and development of vaccines.

        The Salk vaccine was for polio, not TB. And the vaccine “nightmare” is your own, not reality. There are reasons mortality rates are so much lower now than a hundred years ago, and one of the big ones is the existence of widespread vaccination against deadly diseases.

          1. Katharine

            Thanks! If it’s not too personal a question, which decade were those problematic vaccines you received? I know I’ve read some of the pre-Salk tests, especially in the thirties, were very messy, and even after Salk vaccine was licensed there were a couple of problem batches.

    2. Michael C

      Maybe earlier with Taft-Hartley, or a few years earlier than that with the throwing of Wallace under the bus for Truman.

  7. Randall Stephens

    “As Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere quipped in the 1960s, when he was accused by the US of running a one-party state, ‘The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them’.”

    OK, that made me laugh out loud.

    1. UserFriendly

      That is one of my favorite things about Hudson; the obscure anecdotes that are just perfect!

  8. Arizona Slim

    I seem to recall that the identity politics of yore were lacking in solidarity.

    The antiwar protestors, some of whom were hippies, were beaten up by working class union members. Remember the hard hat riots?

    And the African American leadership of the Civil Rights era? Well, they were from the black churches​, and they thought that the hippies were uncouth.

    1. Deadl E Cheese

      The identity politics of today lack in solidarity, too. What with Hillary Clinton running the most ageist campaign in memory, Obama breaking the record on deportations, Bill Clinton blowing racist dogwhistles as hard he can and also helping to shepherd a police state that puts Thailand to shame, and the whole of the Democratic Party stoking Russophobia and neoconservative.

      A cynic might say that liberal identity politics (as opposed to post-Frankfurt/Focault Marxist identity politics) was intentionally designed to do these things both in the 60-70s and now.

      And I am that cynic.

    2. Kukulkan

      I don’t see how antiwar protestors qualify as identity politics, since the group is defined by a policy concern, not by some quasi-biological tag. Same with working class union members; policy and economic interests, not tags.

      I’d say the same about the African American leadership of the Civil Rights era, even though they did generally share the tag of being “black”. They focused on a policy goal and welcomed those who didn’t share the tag to participate in the struggle.

      Identity politics are not the same thing as left-wing or progressive or liberal (or whatever you want to call it) politics. In very real sense, Identity politics are a form of anti-politics since they don’t address interests, policy or allow any form of accommodation or reconciliation of different points of view.

      Identity politics is about tags. Non-identity politics is about interests and policies.

      1. PH

        I think the terminology is imprecise. Some people have a sense of team identity that is closely associated with specific policy issues.

        1. Kukulkan

          But the focus is on the policy issues. The campaign for gay marriage was about getting gay marriage, not about being gay. And anyone who supported gay marriage was a part of that campaign — gay, straight, black, white, male, female; all the tags. It may have started with those who were gay, but it wasn’t exclusive to the tag.

          By contrast, Hillary’s campaign was just about the tags. Not doing anything for those with the tags, or changing any policies, no matter how they affected various tags, or even addressing any issues that are important to one or more of the tags, just acknowledging the tags and verbally supporting pride in them. That’s why even a bunch of people possessing the tags didn’t support her: there was nothing there for them, or, indeed, anyone else outside the financial and imperial elite.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      Abernathy and King were from black churches. The rest of the leadership came from the street or universities. King’s lament about the “white moderate” was code for the “black church.” Ministers were glorified house slaves and liked the big houses. Jim Crow worked for black ministers. If better of blacks moved to white neighborhoods and more importantly white churches, who would put money in the collection plate?

      With the exception of Jackson when he showed up (he was young), those young black men who were always around King were Communists and atheists. They didn’t broadcast it for obvious reasons, but a guy like Malcolm X was skeptical of King for real reasons.

      Jackson was important because he forced the black churches to get with the program. If there was a minister successor to King, the congregants might ask questions about their own ministers.

      The black church hated hippies, but the real civil rights leadership didn’t.

  9. SumiDreamer

    The diagnosis is mostly correct. But omits the role class bigotry and affluenza with attendant celebrity culture and pursuit of prestige plays. Thus the prognosis and protocol go astray.

    The wealthy and the politicians don’t care about you/us. They care about maintaining any fiction that allows them to keep acquiring. Trump is not the problem; Mercer”s values are The Problem. Trump is the PERFECT reality TV/celebrity fantasy creature to keep the twisted Mercer chariot’s wheels turning.

    Bernie was NOT The Answer. Putting on a mask of concern does not take away the sorrows of empire. As long as the blatant US militarism and imperialism continues we cannot unite the working class. Everything it needs to flourish continues — mass incarceration, join the military or stay in the ghetto, graft and corruption of military/industrial/media complex, no respect for other cultures being swarmed, consumerism.

    Bernie picked up Occupy”s talking points (good plagarist!) but left the hurdle of recognizing plutocracy the same as Occupy did. Plutocracy is democratic as … well it just usnt!

    What is there to show for 200 million in donations to overcome the Third Way? A new minuet with the crushing DemocRATic “party”.

    The war has come home. First step is to admit it. Consistency in VALUES is the left”s primary directive. There needs to be funerals for both parties not more illusion.

    The tax break “fight” will be hilarious. Another example of how our rulers cannot solve a single problem ….

    The jobs plan: more prison guards, border agents, munitions makers, soldiers, cops, various bodyguards for the rich and the other useful mandarins to the affluenza-stricken is set in stone.

    You cannot heal a chronic disease without seeing the entirety of its degenerative properties. We’re fighting a nasty virus.

    1. PH

      I doubt this message would attract many votes. Americans do not see themselves this way, and do not want to.

      I think we agree about the central horror of militarism. No one wants to face that, and we must. The next opportunity in the press will be the military budget. We will see who stands up. Not many, I predict.

    2. Mac na Michomhairle

      Bernie did not plagiarize Occupy. He had been saying the same things in Vermont for 25 years, but saying them in ways that lots of very various people connected with.

      20 years ago, Bernie lawn signs used to be run over by irate people who knew he was a no-good dirty Socialist. But because he has consistently framed issues in terms of ordinary people’s lives and because he has always been absolutely honest and forthright, most of those people who flattened the signs now like and respect him and vote for him. They also pay attention to issues that only no-good dirty Socialists do in most other states.

  10. Denis Drew

    “a revived protection of labor’s right to unionize”

    Do this and everything else will follow — don’t do this and nothing will ever follow.

    “It seems that only a new party can achieve these aims.”

    Don’t depend on right or left parties. Depend on yourselves: rebuild American union density (6% unions in private economy analogous to 20/10 BP — starves every other healthy process). Both parties will come begging to your door.

    Here’s how to “do this”:

    80 years ago Congress forgot to put criminal enforcement in the NLRA(a). Had union busting been a felony all along we would be like Germany today. Maybe at some point our progressives might note that collective bargaining is the T-Rex in the room — or the missing T-Rex.

    The money is there for $20 jobs. 49 years — and half the per capita income ago — the fed min wage was $11. Since then the bottom 45% went from 20% overall income share to 10% — while the top 1% went from 10% to 20%.

    How to get it — how to get collective bargaining set up? States can make union busting a felony without worrying about so-called federal preemption:
    + a state law sanctioning wholesalers, for instance, using market power to block small retail establishments from combining their bargaining power could be the same one that makes union busting a felony — overlap like min wage laws — especially since on crim penalties the fed has left nothing to overlap since 1935;
    + First Amendment right to collectively bargain cannot be forced by the fed down (the current) impassable road. Double ditto for FedEx employees who have to hurdle the whole-nation-at-once certification election barrier;

    + for contrast, examples of state infringement on federal preemption might be a state finding of union busting leading to a mandate for an election under the fed setup — or any state certification setup for labor already covered by NLRA(a) or RLA(a). (Okay for excluded farm workers.)

    1. Michael C

      Obama promised “Card Check” and for two years while controlling Congress did nothing to bring it about. That would have been no panacea, but it sure would have helped. The Dems will not give Labor more than a nod, and dwindling Labor needs to break the death spiral pact they have with the Dems.

    2. GERMO

      Good points. I have always theorized that the major mistake of Obama’s first term was perhaps not letting the banksters off the hook and all that goes along with that — maybe it was how he shelved EFCA (“card check”) and devoted so much energy to Obama”care”.
      Pass EFCA you get broadened unionization and better healthcare outcomes would have followed. Not to mention increasing coherency of the working class.

    3. Tom Reed

      Very interesting post. I want to learn more.
      However, because of all the shorthand and your inferential referents that I don’t get, ?BP? I don’t understand most of it. Could you please expand it into plain English and give some background?

      Write it as though you were explaining it to a high school kid. I sense that there’s something important therein.

  11. Norb

    240 million is a lot of money for one election. All this wasted effort has to stop. Obama continues to draw the energy out of many forms of peaceful resistance and now Bernie, continues this trend. This is what working within the system gets you. One way or another, politics needs to get much more radical. Time to dust off the history books and learn how opposition movements were started-and financed.

    1. PH

      If you are suggesting violence, I disagree.

      As for history, I think politics had a social activity aspect that seems foreign in out tv culture. Maybe it could be revived in some form. I am not sure.

    2. Mac na Michomhairle

      All the (temporarily, yes) effective opposition movements (Populists and early unions; maybe 1960s Counterculture) functioned first as social movements that provided specific necessary types of everyday supports to individuals, families and communities. They provided alternative local institutional structures–“free spaces” in which to develop solidarity and common understanding. They became political movements after that, in order to protect and develop what they were doing.

      Our society is very different. Few people interact with each other any more; they’re on-line. Most places there are no longer communities, or even families.

      What is the answer? I don’t know, but starting a new political party cold would probably be a media flash in the pan

  12. PhilipL

    Michael Hudson makes great points but I am still wrestling with his (and others) push back against so-called identity politics as it pertains to this perception of it splintering or at least limiting the Democratic party. The Dems are most certainly a party committed to the ideals of neoliberalism and corporatism. They did not lose this election based on “Russian hacking/emails” and other trite nonsense. Nor did they lose it by appealing to so-called identity politics or tribalism. If the Left is going to move forward effectively it can’t pretend we are merely having class and by extension economic arguments. Race is the thru line and has consistently been since the countries inception. Many things cited i.e. the New Deal, pro-Union policy, etc are standard bearers on the Left but have also been rife with racist treatment of potential Black and Latino allies. Why would that be ignored if we are only having conversations of class? Class does not explain redlining…which has economic and social implications.

    Access to universal healthcare is great and should be a goal but what does one do when the practice of medicine is still effected by race based/racial administration –> https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/aug/10/black-patients-bias-prescriptions-pain-management-medicine-opioids

    Acces to higher education and supposedly higher paying job with more opportunities is also great but that access is still shielded by exclusion that again is race based –> https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/05/african-americans-with-college-degrees-are-twice-as-likely-to-be-unemployed-as-other-graduates/430971/

    These are complex issues, but they are not as class focused (solely) as many on the Left would like to believe. Our failure to speak honestly and openly about it and critique capitalism and its most malevolent (and seductive form neoliberalism) as being tied to the practice and idea of white supremacy is why we ultimately will find it more and more challenging to wage a successful countermovement against it.

    1. Scylla

      Wow. Ok, so since racial bias was written into past economic policy that was intended to address class issues, addressing class based inequality should just be abandoned?

      How about just demanding policy that addresses class based inequality simply be written without the racial bias? Why is this so difficult to get into the minds of liberals? This is not that hard.

  13. Jason Boxman

    The refusal to recognize is a nice idea. I’ve often thought of late that Democrats, or at least the Left, should refuse to recognize Trump’s horrible cabinet appointments, even if the delegitimizing effect is minimal. Just referring to these people at citizen or whatever rather than secretary would be some small repudiation, at least.

  14. Mel

    There’s a very long and comprehensive musing on politics and public dialog at slatestarcodex. My takeaway: if your dialog is weaponized, if you consider your mission to be “How do I force these people to admit that I’m right?” then you’ll keep seeing the same results we see now.

  15. Tim

    Been saying #TrumpIsObamaLegacy since early morning in November.

    Yves was WAAAAY ahead of the curve back in late 08 calling that out.

    The Obama part of maintaining the looting of society status quo.

  16. juliania

    The point about Trump being the US Yeltsin is one very much worth considering, if only because Russia, after much degradation and also suffering, has managed to begin to overcome those shameful and depressing times. May we do so also.

  17. John k

    Great summary, forwarding to friends.
    As commented above, progressive candidates that Bernie backed did not do well. Neolib always willing to boost funding for any candidate of any party if primary challenged by a progressive. Takeover of state party machinery e.g. Ca did have some success, but pretty slow.

    Third party seems both the only way and imo more doable than many think… unlike in the past, electorate is now desperate for real change. Third party impossible until probable. IMO we are now at just such a point.
    But neolib will fight tooth and nail to keep a progressive party off the ballot. So…

    Take over dysfunctional greens. Then
    Change name to Progressive Greens.
    Make party functional.
    Publish progressive platform for all candidates.
    Uni health,
    15/hr min,
    Consumer protection,
    jail crooked bankers,
    no more Middle East wars,
    less mil spending more domestic infra.

    It’s the conomy, stupid! All economic issues, no position on divisive issues such as race, guns/ abortion.

    Dems are 30%, reps 30%, indies 40%. I contend in a three- way race Bernie could get at least
    1/3 dems, 1/6 reps, 3/4 indies, = 45%, more than enough to win in 3- way race.

    Then, with Bernie’s coat tails, some local PG candidates also win.
    Is Bernie too old? Another could carry the banner. Bernie became the most popular candidate in America because of his economic positions, not because of his looks.

    And… dems think hillary’s never trump will be enough. But the electorate has seen dems hope and change, are now seeing trump’s version. Now more desperate than ever, more willing for the real thing.

    And… dems have been spiraling down for eight years… opportune time to replace them, just as reps did to whigs in the four year period beginning 1856.

    1. Vatch

      progressive candidates that Bernie backed did not do well.

      I’m not so sure about that. Here’s the list of candidates backed by Our Revolution (not precisely the same as Sanders, but close). I didn’t bother to do an exact count, but it appears that the winners exceed the losers by about 6 to 5.


      The Republicans control a majority of the state legislatures, governorships, and both houses of Congress. Compared to the establishment Democratic Party as a whole, the Sanders people in Our Revolution are doing pretty well. A new party isn’t required; we just need some new people in charge of the Democratic Party. Heck, a lot of the same people could remain in charge, so long as they change their attitudes and stop obeying Wall Street and the billionaires.

      1. John k

        But they’re paid very well to not change, so they won’t.
        So how to get rid of those controlling the dem party? Even if they pass to their reward, the dem elites, also well paid to maintain the status quo, will repeatedly elect neolib.
        One senator supported Bernie, about 2%.
        I think two house members, if correct, 1%.
        Surprised Keith came as close as he did.
        IMO dems belong in the dustbin of history.

        1. Vatch

          The fact that Ellison did so well is very promising. We’ll have better knowledge about the salvagability of the Democratic party when we see how the 2018 primaries unfold.

          According to Wikipedia’s Democratic Superdelegates page and KeithEllison.org, these Representatives supported Sanders in the primaries: Ellison, Gabbard, Kaptur, Lipinski, Nolan, Peterson, and Welch. Not very good at about 3.5%, but better than 1%

          Pardon me for a bit of nitpicking silliness: two Democratic Senators supported Sanders in the primaries: Merkley and Sanders. :-)

  18. Temporarily Sane

    Excellent piece. Americans have forgotten that the things they took for granted (40 hour week, humane working conditions, employer provided benefits etc.) were gained by the blood, sweat and tears of their forebears.

    Today, as the attack on what’s left
    of employee protections and benefits is ramped up, people are alienated from one another and encouraged to channel their despair and anger into blaming scapegoats or invest their energy stoking paranoid delusions about the illuminati and Russian agents. If that gets boring there’s always alcohol and heroin to take the edge off.

    The left has a momentous job – it has to convince people to give a shit and think of their fate as intertwined with others in a similar position. After decades of neoliberal economics empathy and giving a shit are associated with weakness and losers in many people’s minds. Nobody wants to give a shit about anyone outside their preferred identity group or groups but everyone wants, demands, others give a shit about them.

    It’s almost comical how self-defeating and illogical people can be.

    1. Gman


      My belief is that Trump (and his kin) is likely the ‘apotheosis’ of neoliberalism or, as is far less likely, he (or they) might pleasantly surprise us.

      Like Brexit in the UK, I for one, hopefully not mistakenly, mark this anti establishment ascendency as the beginning of the end of neoliberal economics rather than a further ringing endorsement ie I fully accept things may have to get worse before they get better.

      People mostly vote to maintain a status quo they believe serves or may serve their interests in the future or, increasingly in the case of ever plausible (to the trusting and naïve) neoliberalism, out of misplaced hope, desperation, exasperation or understandable fear of the unknown.

      The Clintons, the Obamas, the Blairs, possibly the Macrons, the Ruttes, even the Merkels of this world are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They have come to represent, for increasing numbers, little better than managed decline in apparently safe hands, conducted in plain sight, in the ever narrower interests of the few.

      Unfortunately events are conspiring to demand the once virtuous, now vicious, circle be broken by fair means or foul.

      1. Temporarily Sane

        The Clintons, the Obamas, the Blairs, possibly the Macrons, the Ruttes, even the Merkels of this world are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They have come to represent, for increasing numbers, little better than managed decline in apparently safe hands, conducted in plain sight, in the ever narrower interests of the few.

        Unfortunately events are conspiring to demand the once virtuous, now vicious, circle be broken by fair means or foul.

        I would add to that list the Trumps, the Farages and the Trudeaus of the world and – more importantly – the corporate and FIRE sector masters whom they serve. The politicians are there to keep the public placated and believing democracy still makes a difference while the wealth that should be going to provide services for the people and keep the nation in good repair is collected at the top by the Soros, Buffets, Musks and Kochs of the world.

        When it comes to social policy Donald Trump may not be a neoliberal like the Clintons or Trudeau (his “ideology”, from what I can see, consists of doing all he can to enrich the guy he sees in the mirror every morning and exercising power for the kick it gives him) and his economic proposals are even more extreme than Obama’s. He also met with the Israelis and Saudis already and they have nothing but good things to say about him.

        It is still possible that Trump is playing 5D chess in order to evade the witchhunt that is pursuing him and that he will pleasantly surprise “us”, but I have to say I think the probability of that happening is extremely low. What will continue happening is people projecting their own hopes and wishes onto Trump and going into denial, just like many did with Obama. Like Obama Trump serves the oligarchs and feeds the people lies and fairytales and, very likely, war to distract them as his corporate “dream team” robs them blind.

        This is a guy with more Goldman’s alumni in his cabinet than even Obama had..and the rest are corporate raiders and hawkish military dudes. That, and his actions to date, don’t exactly signal massive course adjustment ahead.

        It’s easy to talk of revolution and violent insurrection but for that to kick off there needs to be a competing vision, and people dedicated to it, challenging the status quo. I don’t see that anywhere. I see neoliberalism (corporate & finance capitalism + identity politics) versus “Trumpianism” (corporate & finance capitalism – identity politics). As annoying as identity politics is the antagonistic ethnic nationalism favored by Trump’s team and the European right is, at best, a cynical distraction technique. Turn the clock back to a golden age movements are not known for their successes. At worst this kind of jingoist, adversarial nationalism combined with further economic malaise or a full blown market crash will result in aimless violence against perceived “enemies” and “traitors”.

        The problems facing the working/middle class are economic problems. They were created via conscious policy shifts and changes that favor the billionaire class and make the material economy subservient to the finance sector. More capitalism or switching allegiance to another set of oligarchs won’t solve the problem. War, scapegoating or wholesale bigotry may serve to distract people for a while until they realize they have been conned…yet again.

        There is a reason why ‘socialism’ is such a taboo word and even a dedicated capitalist politician like Bernie Sanders is denounced as a Stalinist stooge. That’s because the oligarchs are loathe to give up any of their ill gotten gains. Even a single payer healthcare system is beyond the pale for these venal swindlers. And so long as people stay in their silos and shout about Russian agents or dedicate energy to “proving” their fantasies or opinions are objectively true…nothing fundamental will change.

        The fact is “socialism” or social democratic capitalism is the only viable alternative to oligarchical capitalism that exists. (Neofeudalism or fascism are the other “non-viable” alternatives.) Perhaps the paranoid and hopelessly propagandized denizens that populate so many corners of the internet ready to buy into any and every improbable conspiracy and scenario that they dream up will pause and consider just why is it that socialism is such a dirty word? They might even learn that what they think socialism is, isn’t what socialism actually is and suddenly develop a passion for critical thinking (rather than looking for superman “heroes” to save them). Seems unlikely for the foreseeable future but even I need my small delusions sometimes. Alas, I think things will get worse, much worse, before they (hopefully) get better.

        1. Gman

          Totally agree.

          Unfortunately many of those who still like to think of themselves as ‘of the Left’ are wedded to the idea of ever cheaper labour, and will do whatever they can to salve their consciences by voting for the softer edged party offering just enough social democracy for them to feel comfortable with, but that still doesn’t seriously threaten to undermine their wealth advantage over the poor.

  19. habenicht

    It seems that only a new party can achieve these aims. At the time these essays are going to press, Sanders has committed himself to working within the Democratic Party. But that stance is based on his assumption that somehow he can recruit enough activists to take over the party from Its Donor Class.

    I suspect he will fail. In any case, it is easier to begin afresh than to try to re-design a party (or any institution) dominated by resistance to change, and whose idea of economic growth is a pastiche of tax cuts and deregulation. Both U.S. parties are committed to this neoliberal program – and seek to blame foreign enemies for the fact that its effect is to continue squeezing living standards and bloating the financial sector.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Its encouraging to know that minds like Hudson’s are thinking in these terms.

    1. John k

      Me, too. Hopefully Bernie is reading Hudson.
      IMO the discussion should switch from ‘reform dems’ to ‘new party, with the big decision between take over greens, recognizing they need work, vs start from scratch. I support the former, not that anyone asked.

  20. Kirk

    Regarding the subject line of the article. I’d say that the Democratic Party has been the “paid loyal opposition” for quite a while. . . meaning they are paid to loose. Given the party’s ties to Wall Street and Big Pharma it’s pretty clear they mostly work for the same folks that own “mainstream” Republicans so their apparent fecklessness and inability to mount ANY sort of effective opposition, even when they are in the majority, shouldn’t be any surprise. The question might more appropriately be can EITHER party survive Trump? Frankly, one can only HOPE that the current version of the Democratic Party DOES go the way of the Whig Party. I can only hope that the Republicans stay as gridlocked as they currently are by the stupid faction of their party.

  21. djrichard

    Makes me think back to Dave Barry’s year-end review of 2010


    …which begins grimly, with the pesky unemployment rate remaining high. Every poll shows that the major concerns of the American people are federal spending, the exploding deficit, and — above all — jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs: This is what the public is worried about. In a word, the big issue is: jobs. So the Obama administration, displaying the keen awareness that has become its trademark, decides to focus like a laser on: health-care reform. The centerpiece of this effort is a historic bill that will either (a) guarantee everybody excellent free health care, or (b) permit federal bureaucrats to club old people to death. Nobody knows which, because nobody has read the bill, which in printed form has the same mass as a UPS truck.

    The first indication that the health-care bill is not wildly popular comes when Republican Scott Brown, who opposes the bill, is elected to the U.S. Senate by Massachusetts voters, who in normal times would elect a crustacean before they would vote Republican. The vote shocks the Obama administration, which — recognizing that it is perceived as having its priorities wrong — decides that the president will make a series of high-profile speeches on the urgent need for: health-care reform.

    Obama gave us two levels of bait-and-switch.
    – the first level was to distract us from doing anything about the economy
    – the second level was to protect the insurance-based health care in the face of single payer

    Something to think about as we fight the good fight for single-payer health care. It’s entirely possible to have single-payer health care and still have more lost decades (a la Japan). And the democratic party might find that an acceptable compromise. So don’t be surprised if they concede on single-payer. Anything to avoid the medicine that Michael Hudson prescribes: debt write down. Or to avoid what Dave Barry noted: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.

    1. Marina Bart

      I hesitate to say this in public, but even if that’s true, a) saving lives right now via real universal health care is more important than the debt write down (despite how important dealing with our debt addiction is); and b) I don’t think that’s how it will work. I was just saying to someone earlier today that I think once the first universal benefit is passed, the next one will be along within a couple of years. It would represent a radical shift in the paradigm of how Americans think about government, taxing, budgeting and money. The need is out there, and it is huge.

      So from my POV, if the Dems retreated on opposing health care thinking they could hold the line there, they would be wrong. But I think it’s more likely that they get this, too (remember Hillary’s “never, ever” line when pretending to back uni health care might have crushed Bernie before the first vote was cast?), and will give no inch. That’s why we have to remove them, even if we increase Republican hegemony in the short term. I’m not saying that’s not risky. I just think there’s no way to avoid it now. The only way out is through.

        1. djrichard

          Yea I wasn’t comfortable quoting the bit from Dave Barry where he says, Every poll shows that the major concerns of the American people are federal spending, the exploding deficit. But he was definitely on point with the and — above all, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.

          Because what I really wanted to focus on was the prescription from Michael Hudson in the paragraph in particular immediately following:
          What a Truly Transformative President Would Do/Would Have Done

          Namely writedown of private debts.

          That isn’t on anybody’s radar. Which is too bad, because I think we’re pretty much doomed then to follow the same path as Japan: lost decade after lost decade.

  22. Sound of the Suburbs

    Mapping US / UK politics

    Right – Tories / Conservatives / Republicans
    Elitist Left – Whigs / Liberals / Neo-liberals / Democrats
    Real Left – Labour (the US is not allowed this option)

    There is something missing in the US.

    Liberal is not a real left, it is a rich person’s left.

    George Soros is a liberal who likes identity politics as it takes the focus off the 1%.

    http://static5.businessinsider.com/image/557ef766ecad04fe50a257cd-960/screen shot 2015-06-15 at 11.28.56 am.png

    Identity politics is doing what it’s supposed to do.

    Let’s focus on transgender toilets, 0.3% of the US population are transgender.

  23. Sound of the Suburbs

    Though this solution has its problems as the UK demonstrates.

    The last UK election in 2015:

    Conservative – Shorter, harsher austerity with no increasing taxes on the rich
    Labour – Longer, milder austerity with no increasing taxes on the rich
    Liberal – somewhere in the middle

    All three parties were over-run by neo-liberals.

    Things are starting to resolve themselves now but the mainstream media keep undermining Corbyn and want a liberal Labour party.

    Theresa May doesn’t have many fans in the media either as they want a liberal Conservative party as well.

  24. Pookah Harvey

    The difficulties of running a third party are pointed out by Nader in this Wapo opinion piece where Nader backs Sanders in running as a Democrat. How far was the DNC willing to go to stop Nader’s third party: run::

    In 2004, Democratic operatives were especially zealous in their efforts against my campaign. They hired private investigators to harass my campaign’s petition circulators in their homes in Ohio and Oregon and falsely threatened them with criminal prosecution for fake names that saboteurs had signed on their petitions, according to sworn affidavits from the workers and letters containing threats that were presented in court.

    Third parties are easily marginalized by the corporate media:

    if he (Sanders) had run as an independent, he would have faced only one question daily in the media, as I did: “Do you see yourself as a spoiler?” The implication being, of course, that he had no chance of winning. His popular agenda would have been totally ignored by a horse-race-obsessed mass media, which would have latched on instead to a narrative in which Sanders was unfairly hurting Hillary Clinton’s chances against whichever Republican wound up with the other major-party nomination, as if any Democrat is automatically entitled to the votes of progressives.

    The system is too rigged to attack it from the outside. Infiltrate a fortified position rather than throwing away assets in a frontal attack. I go with Our Revolution and Justice Democrats approach.


  25. jerry

    For my money it doesn’t get any better than Michael Hudson, no one else is more thoroughly educated, rational, and on point than this guy year after year. Keep em coming!

  26. vteodorescu

    Professor Michael Hudson – very well captured spirit of the times! – yes, indeed – with the political class corrupted by neoliberalism and junk economics used as propaganda and oppression tool, the only good think we the 99 percent can hope for is not revolution, which will likely bring in more of the same politicians, but indeed debt writedown.

    It will happen, one day, by law or by pitchfork or by war… My bets are all on reset by war, unfortunately – the other two are too improbable to happen in a reasonable time frame…

  27. Pickup 'n leave

    Trump becoming president is the result, not of Obama’s alleged failures or Hillary’s. Rather Trump is in office because our economy has some serious drawbacks.

    Jobs in flyover states evaporated beginning around the mid-1980s because in our economy employers can locate wherever they want. However, employers also have a symmetric right — to leave whenever they want, and take their jobs or business wherever they want.

    I know of no strong or feasible remedies to this. Jobs will come and jobs will go as someone else decides freely.

    So, expect more job “turbulence” and employer fussiness ahead. Sorry — I got no answer.

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