Yanis Varoufakis: Trumpism after Trump – NEWSWEEK Magazine, Interviewed by Basit Mahmood

Yves here. Even though I don’t agree with all of Varoufakis’ observations, he does not mince words, and that always serves as a good foil for sharpening your own thinking. Having said that, his take on US politics is acute, particularly his expectation that the Democrats will fizzle under Biden and the Trump faction will strengthen. You can’t fight something with nuthin’. Varoufakis, as a friend of Sanders, no doubt recognizes the box the Vermont Senator is in. Biden clearly believes that he (as opposed to Obama and the Democratic party machinery) “beat the socialist” and therefore owes him nothing and he intends to govern that way. Biden is too small-minded to learn from Churchill: “In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity. In peace, goodwill.”

By Yanis Varoufakis. Cross posted from his website

In an exclusive interview with Newsweek International, Varoufakis gives his thoughts on why he believes the Democratic Party could turn in on itself, resulting in an “existential crisis for the left”, how he thinks the rivalry between the U.S. and China could play out and whether he believes the GameStop saga was a revolutionary moment in the fight against capitalism. Still a member of parliament in Greece, while Varoufakis is delighted Donald Trump lost the election, he is reluctant to be too optimistic.

“The wave of enthusiasm regarding the Biden administration has not washed over me,” he says. “I’m glad Trump is out, but at the very same time I’m very worried that Trumpism is going to get stronger. I’m very worried that the Democratic Party is in the process of turning in on itself, of divisions between the establishment figures, those who were effectively supported by Wall Street to become senators or congressmen or presidents for that matter and the socialists.

“The clash is already there, the blame game has begun. While the Trumpists are more united than ever, they’re going to be aided and abetted by two things. First, the [financial] slump which is unavoidable given the pandemic, they will be blaming it on the system and the swamp that has taken over again and a false but real sense that they have, false in the sense that it’s untrue but real in the sense they do feel it, that they were robbed of the election.

“So this combination, solidity on the Trumpist side, political economy which is strengthening their feeling and their unity and the fragmentation of the Democratic side which is only going to get worse as we’re moving towards the congressional elections two years from now. That for me is the great danger.”

Varoufakis doesn’t believe that the Biden-Harris ticket will improve outcomes for the poor or radically redistribute wealth. Nearly eight million Americans, many of them children and minorities, have fallen into poverty since May last year as the pandemic took its toll, according to Columbia University research. While Biden is intent on passing a $1.9 trillion economic rescue package that aims to provide more aid for the unemployed and those facing eviction, Varoufakis doesn’t think it will go far enough.

He says: “Bernie Sanders has effectively bent over backwards in order to lead in the Senate with the Biden agenda on his shoulders. I can see why he’s doing it because he’s trying to use the moment, this moment in history in order to extract as many benefits as possible, Medicare, on the stimulus program, but I feel this will fail because in the end the stimulus program will be tepid. It’s going to benefit the large corporations it is not going to come with anything near the green new deal aspects of the policy that was agreed between Bernie’s team and Biden’s team.

“All those plans for a massive green works program are going to fade away, what is going to be left of them is not going to make any substantial dent on climate change, the Medicare for All program is not even on the table. There will be, due to Bernie’s intervention, substantial medical benefits for the many but only during the pandemic and then they will be withdrawn. By that time, it will be very very difficult for leftists who knocked on doors during the election campaign saying to people ‘come on come out vote for Biden’, bringing the vote out of people that were not going to otherwise vote for Biden, it will be very difficult to explain to them in two years’ time, why they did it. When there will be very little left.

“The whole Democratic party is going to coalesce around Clinton/Obama, Larry Summers kind of narrative austerity will be back on the table because of public debt and the natural tendency of Biden people to balance the books, which we saw under Clinton in the 90s and that’s when the left is going to have an existentialist crisis.”

His support of Sanders is perhaps unsurprising, given that they are both founding members of Progressive International, an international organization of left-wing activists and groups discussing and promoting the idea of a “post-capitalist society”. Varoufakis’ ideas have been criticized by the right as “leftist snake oil” and by some economists as “lucid but flawed” but he is one of the biggest names of economic thinking on the left and it’s clear that he believes politicians like Biden are only tinkering around the edges when it comes to capitalism and he wants to see it reformed entirely.

Biden has pledged to fight economic inequality, in particular racial economic inequality, through his $1.9 trillion rescue package. Biden has previously said: “If we invest now – boldly, smartly, with unwavering focus on American workers and families – we will strengthen our economy, reduce inequality and put our nation’s long-term finances on the most sustainable course.”

Did the GameStop saga, in which an army of amateur investors took on multi-billion dollar hedge funds, deciding to buy up GameStop shares to send the share price of the company rocketing to astronomical levels causing losses for short-sellers, give the likes of Varoufakis hope that collective action from people could take on capitalism? Was it the start of a revolutionary moment?

“This is not a revolution,” he says. There’s no doubt about that but there are elements that are very interesting and secondly yes there are elements which do present themselves as bits of hope that financial engineering can be used as part of collective action to bring about a better world.”

Although Varoufakis accepts that most people who did get involved in buying up shares of GameStop did so to make money rather than for purely ideological reasons aimed at challenging capitalism, he believes there were enough people motivated by a desire to take on the big beasts of Wall Street. “The internet and financial engineering will be the new realm of collective action for the 21st century,” he says.

Varoufakis, 59, claims capitalism has been state driven and that China has given it its biggest drive. Yet while he believes Biden will achieve a state of détente with China, finding some common ground on the economic front, he argues there could be problems on the military front.

“The rivalry [between China and the U.S.] will continue, it was not Trump who created it, he gave it a particular slant,” he says. “Trump was trying to rip up the supply chains between China and the U.S., the Democrats are not interested in that, on one level there is going to be a détente between Washington and Beijing. But at another level I fear the neocons who moved from Trump and the Republican Party to the Democratic Party and are now surrounding Biden, could easily spark off a military confrontation in the South China Sea.”

Varoufakis is known for being a fierce critic of the EU, comparing Greece’s creditors to “terrorists” and telling his fellow citizens to vote no in a referendum that asked Greeks whether they would accept the Eurozone’s terms for remaining in the single currency, terms which included further spending cuts and tax increases.

He has also previously criticized the bloc for being undemocratic and bureaucratic. The EU has been behind other countries when it comes to the vaccination program. While the U.K. has administered 14.9 doses per 100 people, the EU has managed just over two people. It recently tried to trigger an emergency provision in the Brexit agreement to control vaccine exports from the bloc, a decision it later reversed.

“The EU commission has been behaving as if they were on the payroll of Brexiteers with a remit to justify Brexit, it is astonishing, it’s a comedy of errors in Brussels,” says Varoufakis. “It’s as if it was designed by Eurosceptics in order to sanctify Brexit, it’s very difficult to argue against Brexit now if you look at the vaccination fiasco.

“You have eight times more people vaccinated in Britain as we speak than in Germany, don’t talk about Greece. It’s clear that Britain would have been hamstrung in that department had it not left the EU. Had it stayed in the EU you would have had to abide by the rules we Greeks have to abide by, the approval of the vaccines would have taken months longer than it did in the U.K., you would have one tenth of the vaccinations that you have so it is to Brexiteers delight what has been happening in the EU.

“Everything I now hear from Brussels is now so reminiscent of what was going on during the Euro crisis, the blame game, the Commission trying to cover bad decisions by making worse decisions, disarray, nationalism, fragmentation, I fought against Brexit, but I have to say there is a little bit of egg on my face as we speak because I can’t in all honesty say to you that I don’t regret supporting Remain five years ago, it would be dishonest of me to say that.”

But while Varoufakis reels over Remain, he argues that leaving the EU will ultimately harm Britain too. “By Britain leaving the EU, the EU becomes more toxic, more prone to errors and more of a failure. Given that Britain is next to the EU, this is going to have secondary effects on Britain that will be very negative,” he says.

“Maybe now it has shielded itself from the stupidity of the commission when it comes to vaccination, but you cannot shield yourselves from an EU crisis that is going to get deeper as a result of Brexit. But that’s a difficult argument to put to the electorate.”

Before the interview ends, Varoufakis says he fears a return to austerity measures for countries with large public debts, the devastating effects of which he says he saw firsthand in Greece. For people living in countries at risk of public spending cuts, he urges: “Send a message to the governments that if you make a mistake of turning austerian, you’re done, you’re toast politically.”

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  1. arkansasangie

    Opinion — there are Trumpers who like Trump. There are also Trumper who are broadly against the level of corruption today and “1984” materializing before them. They believe that the deep state exists and that the two primary political parties are one and the same; their differences being cosmetic only

    And … guess what. Neither party likes them.

    1. Northeaster

      Didn’t vote for Trump, but in a blue state it wouldn’t matter with vote bundling (sans Nebraska & Maine), but this post resonates. Basically we’re in political exile, both Party’s are corrupt and most spend their time calling donors and/or taking lobby monies for their Party dues in exchange for their vote. The only politician I can stand is Massie, who’s not even allowed in the RNC building, and actually walks-the-walk on issues, and me as a Vet, Massie doesn’t vote for unending war (NDAA).

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      your second group is also adjacent/overlapping, generally, with my feed store people.
      a New new Deal could have won them…at least prior to pandemic, and the associated(and engineered) rancor and insanity.
      i reckon that trump turned out to be a good enough hammer for the Machine to knock down the potential for class consciousness(post-post-modernist/post-post industrial version).
      that’s the biggest sociopolitical change in places i go..many of the generally non-voting small-c conservative leaning, working for a living people at the proverbial Feedstore are now consumed with anticommunist hysteria, Q and otherwise, and trending towards a fatalism and/or nihilism…much like my cousin’s barstool roofer conservatives.

      of course, i’ve only left the house once in the last 4-5 days…and it looks like we won’t be able to get out until late next week,lol…so who knows what this weather-induced lockdown will do to the local hive mind. I expect that a whole lot of people around here are doomscrolling on twitter…just soaking the hypermadness up, waiting on still worse winter weather.
      and power company guy says to expect outages…since apparently, texas doesn’t have the kind of infrastructure for this, like somewhere like chicago does(our grid isn’t built for 2 weeks of below freezing, with a whole lot of ice on the lines, is what i got from him)
      when the power goes, we’ll be uncomfortable and bored, but fine…others, not so much.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    Just on his point about the differences between the UK and EU on vaccination – I think his narrative is simplistic, the reasons for the EU’s failures are more complex. Partially its because there is a lack of clarity in EU countries as to who is actually in charge of vaccination, as normally this is done at the national or regional level. This seems to have landed on the EU’s lap through a mix of empire building and default (there is nothing European politicians love more than being able to blame the EU for problems.

    But more fundamentally, I think there is a conflict in Europe between the politicians, who want to be seen to get things done, and the medical authorities, who in many European countries I think are far more sceptical about the RNA vaccines than in the Anglophone countries. In Germany, the early approval was unquestionably accelerated by a mixture of tabloid rabble rousing and political panic. This isn’t my area of expertise, and perhaps some who know better could chip in, but I think there was a feeling among many health professionals in Europe that a few months delay was no bad thing, and would allow for more data to be collected before making a decision on mass vaccination. Its certainly clear that the German health authorities are strikingly unenthusiastic about giving a thumbs up to the current vaccines.

    If the RNA vaccines turn out to be a big success, then a slow roll out in Europe will be seen as a relative failure, but not a catastrophe. If it turns out that alternatives such as the Sputnik vaccine turn out to be cheaper, better, and safer, then in the long run the foot dragging may be seen to have been the wisest thing to do.

    1. Harry

      Fascinating, and very useful. Much obliged. I have read pieces which questioned possible problems with RNA vaccines. This is dangerous territory and I would hate to be seen as anti-Vaxx but my poor understanding of how RNA vaccines work does seem to have the potential to cause immune system issues. Everyone should feel free to correct my poor understanding.

      1. Porcupine

        The UK does have a lot of regulatory expertise in the life sciences space, and the EMA was based there until recently. So they were in a good position to react quickly. Compared to usual approval timelines, the differences between UK and EU approvals (on the order of weeks, and possibly at least partially explained by when AZ actually submitted the data to the European regulator) are really in the noise, so I am not sure there is a great difference in policy. A lot of EU politicians seemed to be very concerned about taking the population along and playing it safe, but this may even have backfired because a lot of people assume that because the establishment is being careful that they are in fact hiding something, when clearly there isn’t really anything to hide. The UK also took a calculated risk in deferring the second dose.

        I don’t know what possible problems with RNA vaccines are being referred to here, but most of the skepticism around RNA vaccines is simply based on internet misinformation. What most people don’t seem to realise is that there is a reason RNA needs to be stored at very low temperatures. It is very unstable, the RNA itself has a half-life time on the order of minutes (!) in a human cell. Cells are swimming in RNA. It is a naturally occurring molecule, and does not touch the genetic information encoded in DNA. The RNA vaccines have been tested on 10s of thousands of patients in clinical trials, which are openly published in peer reviewed journals. By now millions of people have received RNA vaccines. Adverse effects are observed and published, including very rare severe allergic reactions immediately following the injection. But on the whole they appear to be very safe, certainly orders of magnitude more benign than the disease itself, and there is no reason to believe that the long-term immune response would be any different from traditional vaccines, or worse than the disease itself.

    2. Runkelstoss

      I think his narrative is simplistic, the reasons for the EU’s failures are more complex.

      Indeed, this is the first time the EU Commission had to act as procurement manager in an emergency situation, for 27 different countries, with 27 different epidemiological situations, needs, capabilities, budgets, technical infrastructure, know how. The EU is yet in no way equipped to act so fast, without organisazional and legal structures and informed mandarins.

      1. RMO

        “The EU is yet in no way equipped to act so fast, without organisazional and legal structures and informed mandarins.”

        I think that is a pretty strong condemnation of at least some aspects of the EU. Why are they doing so badly? What have all the EU authorities been doing all theses years if they’re not prepared for something like this? If the need to manage 27 different countries and get them all doing the same thing the same way at the same time makes emergencies difficult to handle to this extent, maybe the EU is too big for it’s own good?

        I probably would have voted remain if I were British (especially since Britain wasn’t in the Eurozone) but it’s hard to dispute that although the EU has it’s pluses it certainly has it’s minuses too.

    3. Pelham

      I understand your point about national politicians in EU countries preferring to blame the EU for everything. But does the blame for this reside solely with the politicians? The very existence of what amounts to a second governing body is problematic in itself, I would argue, as it quite predictably sets up a dynamic of mutual fingerpointing.

      As for Varoufakis’ argument that both the EU and UK will ultimately suffer a number of ills due to Brexit: This may well be true but it avoids the issue of whether the EU should exist at all and whether its member nations would be better off with a much more modest trading partnership in its place (with NATO or something like it serving as an alliance that keeps the peace).

      Finally, when the merits and demerits of being part of the EU are weighed in the balance, no one ever seems to include the value that ordinary people assign to the dignity of living in a sovereign nation with some degree of democratic transparency and accountability. I’m not suggesting this outweighs everything else, but it would definitely have been a singular factor in my mind had I been asked to vote on Brexit.

  3. a different chris

    Roll out somebody who knows something:

    “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” – Yogi Berra


    All the US people who count, except for Obama – who is termed out and uninterested in anything but looking in a mirror – are well aged and could literally fall over any moment now.

    Trump has shown so many signs of mini-strokes it isn’t even funny. Enjoyable in a mean way, but not funny. I find lifespans to be defined by three things:
    1) How long your parents live
    2) How you deal with stress/how rich you are (kind of connected)
    3) Physical condition as evaluated by our wonderful Medical Industrial Complex

    Of the three, Trump does do really well on two of them (Fred lived to 96, Trump dumps his stress on the nearest poor sucker) and really, really, really horribly on the third.

    So, using equal weights as a first (and only pass, who the heck knows?) I would say Trump is probably going to be around in 2024, but it’s far from a sure thing.

    If he keels over, what happens to the Trumpists then?

    1. Ian Ollmann

      You can be sure there will be several populist candidates spouting rabid nonsense trying to capture this base.

      1. Baldanders

        This being the Crazy Years, I fully expect the next Republican nominee to be a Neimah Scudder-type.

    2. John Anthony La Pietra

      Well . . . Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric are all 35 already. (Not to mention he-went-to Jared.)

  4. flora

    This was interesting. I wish YV had defined the term “Trumpism”. I haven’t seen it defined anywhere; it’s used to smear voters, but I haven’t seen it defined.

    Imo, it’s the rising populism (in the good sense) in the US trying to stop financial predations by the banks and Wall St. speculators, stop trade deals that undercut US wages and off shore jobs, again regulate and breakup the new monopolies – especially the tech monopolies whose rents attach to nearly everything now. That’s my definition. I wonder what YV’s definition is. It’s happening in the US, in the UK (Brexit), in France (jillet jaunes), and in other Western countries where the bottom70-80% of the populations – the once large and financially stable middle class – has been economically undermined for the past 30 years by govt policy and deregulation. Its a reasonable, sane response to seeing your childrens’ and grandchildrens’ life chances and life expectancies fall at the same time billionaires are getting richer and richer.

    But calling the idea that this economic destruction needs to be addressed, calling it “Trumpism” smears the entire idea there’s something badly out of balance that needs to be addressed. Calling it “Trumpism” dismisses these ideas as unimportant and maybe even slightly unhinged.

    So, again, I wish YV had defined “Trumpism” as he understands it. Otherwise, the argument sounds a bit like “these crackpots are a worry, how can we keep the crackpots under control”? Shorter: over half the country has real, long term, ongoing financial grievances against the current system, but I’ll use this dimissive name for them and still expect everyone to take half the country’s financial and health care grievances seriously. It doesn’t work that way, imo.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      trump will be a weapon against any populism, at all.
      think the next election had problems? the primary? you must be a moron and a trumper.
      think the economy is rigged for the powerful, and ruinous for everyone else? damned trumpy racist moron.
      on and on…on just about every real problem we face, there is a rebuttal there in trump that will dismiss it out of hand…no matter the glaring evidence that the problem is real.
      just as the Left appeared to be getting it’s shit together, the Powers have their out.
      see Haydar Khan’s part 2:

      of course, dismissing the myriad problems…or doing them in such a way that they are ineffective, if very profitable…will only make them worse, and that will eventually have consequences.

      1. Patrick

        From the great reset – an attempted corporate coup: “The recent social media cancellation of former president Donald Trump is certainly a demonstration of private corporations serving as private trustees of society.”

        Thanks for the link …

    2. Alfred

      Agreed that Newsweek should have pressed Mr Varoufakis to define his key term. ‘Trumpism’ seems to defy succinct definition, however. Possibly its vagueness counts as an advantage in ideological discourse? Still I think the Wikipedia article on ‘Trumpism’ is a pretty good place to get a start on understanding it. I noticed that it actually suggests the existence of more than one ‘Trumpism’ in the US, and as covers it/them as an international phenomenon. It also makes clear what a wide variety of assessments of it have already emerged. It provides a rather vast bibliography. More provocative, in the good sense of thought-provoking, are the several definitions offered up by contributors to Urban Dictionary. They emphasize its reliance on deception to market itself. Personally I think it may make more sense to understand ‘Trumpism’ as a mode of political discourse – a means of advancing a certain political agenda, apparently a means especially amenable to social media though I very much doubt one engendered by its parameters – than as any particular agenda as such.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        that wiki page is a pretty good read in itself, and provides a launch pad for further digging.
        and, i hadn’t realised that Bob Altemeyer was still around and on the case.
        his main book was one of the most important in trying to understand the people i’ve been embedded in for all my life.

        re: the wiki, the sections on “Methods of Persuasion” and “Social Psychology” are particularly good, and link to a lot of names familiar to me from my own research project/field study into the american right, circa 2002-2014~.

        by comparison, just about the entire canon of interpretation of the trump phenomenon by NYT, WaPo, etc etc is useless…unless you are after a mirror image emotional response/catharsis, rather that actually trying to understand what why and how.
        we’ll be dealing with this mess for a long time to come.

        1. RMO

          Thank you Amfortas! I too hadn’t realized Bob Altermeyer was still writing – he hadn’t added anything new in quite a while so I figured he had retired and I hadn’t been checking.

    3. Runkelstoss

      I wish YV had defined the term “Trumpism”

      a draft

      1. America first
      2. white supremacy
      3. pandering to religious fundamentalists
      4. pandering to gun enthusiasts and right wing militias
      5. marking people and groups as enemies of the people
      6. decrying so called hostile elites
      7. creating alternative ‘facts’ and imaginary realities
      8. xenophobia
      9. misogyny
      10. politics of force, inside and outside

      1. flora

        2016 campaign:

        a. Campaigning against more trade deals like TPP and TPIP (NAFTA on steroids)

        b. Campaigning on ending the endless wars and bringing troops home

        c. Campaigning on bringing back on shore manufacturing and good jobs.

        d. Campaigning on closing the US/Mexico border and stopping the inflow of the cheapest labor possible undercutting wages of already very low paid workers here.

        e. Campaigning on lowering military tensions with Russia

        (not that he did these things, but he campaigned heavily on economic issues and reducing military adventurism, both important to the middle class/working class in 2016. Not sure what the 2020 message was.)

        1. marym

          Re: 2016 and 2020 messages

          In 2016 he also campaigned on better-than-Obamacare healthcare and addressing opioid addiction. He tried to repeal Obamacare, with no better plan. HHS announced a plan for new guidelines for opioid treatment on January 14, 2021 but Biden canceled it (don’t know more about this than what’s in the link). As far as anti-immigration policy, it’s fine for people of good faith to argue that it would be helpful for US wages, but Trump often presented it as an othering of people as dangerous criminals, and didn’t have other pro-worker labor and economic policies.

          For 2020 it would depend somewhat on what “campaign on” means. The Republican Party didn’t adopt a new platform for 2020. Trump issued a statement of objectives including elements similar to those you describe for 2016. How does this compare to what his supporters heard at campaign rallies (which started up again soon after he became president), in his comments to the media, and tweets? I surf a limited segment of twitter, so clips I see may not be representative, but they consist mostly of slurs against individuals, demographics, the media, etc. accompanied by cheers from the audience at rallies. I don’t know what his voters wanted from him in 2020 beyond having him continue to be president. What were their demands?


      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Maybe the “left” needs some left wing gun enthusiasts.

        Certainly Black America has decided that Black America needs some Black wing gun enthusiasts.

        If the Liberal Fascist Pig gun controllists try to disarm the rising numbers of Black gun enthusiasts,
        which political “tendency” might groups like this one . . . https://blackgunsmatter.myshopify.com/
        decide to support?

      3. Pelham

        Let’s see:

        1. America first. True. Is this so bad?
        2. White supremacy. False. Very few of these characters exist, although they’re much in demand from the left.
        3. Pandering to religious fundamentalists. False, although substitute “appealing” for “pandering” and it’s true.
        4. Pandering to gun enthusiasts and right-wing militias. Sigh, true, although there’s nothing wrong with gun enthusiasts, broadly speaking.
        5. Marking people and groups as enemies of the people. False, I think. Needs to be more specific, though.
        6. Decrying so-called hostile elites. True if you omit the “so-called.”
        7. Creating alternative “facts” and imaginary realities. Sigh, True.
        8. Xenophobia. Mostly false. It’s not fear of others, it’s mostly a plea to at long last shut off the firehose of wage-crushing immigration.
        9. Misognyny. Mostly false. Trump has certainly had his moments, but many women were happy to serve in the Trump administration, and I’m not seeing evidence of misogyny among his backers.
        10. Politics of force, inside and outside. True to a small degree but not nearly as characteristic of Trumpists as of leftists, who destroyed thousands of buildings and businesses last summer, and the media, which have cheerfully allied themselves with our internationally murderous intelligence community.

  5. Patrick

    flora, I’m thinking your “populism in the good sense” aligns with the political science textbook definition of a populist, at least the economic component of that definition: a populist is an economic liberal (one who generally believes that government should play a role in the economy to protect the 99% by regulating and otherwise reining in large and powerful private sector interests, especially big business).

    The textbook definition says that a populist is also a cultural conservative (one who believes that government should play a role in our private/social/cultural lives by promoting traditional values). (I am not sure you are meaning to discuss this cultural aspect of a populist; I’m just providing the textbook definition.)

    I am thinking that arkansasangie (above) is also describing populism in the same way (“Trumper(s) who are broadly against the level of corruption today and “1984” materializing before them. They believe that the deep state exists and that the two primary political parties are one and the same; their differences being cosmetic only” (if by the “deep state” she might mean a government that has been captured by and serves the interest of corporate elites, eg, globalization, market monopoly, empire, etc.).

    And I am thinking Amfortas the hippie’s “feedstore people” are, likewise, (economic liberal) “populists” (who could have “been won by a new New Deal”). (Having enjoyed many of Ath’s posts, I’m guessing they are also cultural conservatives.)

    I do think that some if not most “Trumpists” are populists. But what I think is interesting is how they are being managed (as in how the Koch brothers (created and) managed Tea Party “populists”).

    Conservatives are reactionary – they react to change. It seems to me that one of the ways they react is by co-opting the changes taking place, dressing them up and claiming at least some aspect of those changes as their own. I find myself thinking about the Social Gospel of Christ. Or Adam Smith’s “free markets”. Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for freedom (transformed into idpol?). I think all of us understand that this is largely what is happening today with the term “populism”.

    Thomas Frank would agree (“The People, No”) https://tcfrank.com/product/the-people-no/
    And he would speak to the manipulation – he would as “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”

    1. flora

      I agree, and think both parties are trying to manage the phenomina with PR because, as arkansasangie writes above, “Neither party likes them.” Neither party wants to change their party’s funding m.o.

      1. Dirk77

        This interview was all over the place, so it’s hard to extract much. That said, from what I’ve read elsewhere, I think both you and Patrick are correct. Yanis needs to exit the celebrity socialist cocktail circuit, sit down with Thomas Frank, and let Frank explain to him how real populist movements have worked when they did.

  6. Susan the other

    While Janet Yellen advocates pouring money into the covid/economic crisis now because it will be cheaper in the long run (and we know from various indications that the term could be a decade) and post-Trump the trade deficit is no longer talked about since nobody’s counting – nobody’s buying as much – except RVs and groceries and the stats show a vertical drop down in commercial activity and a vertical shot up in bankruptcies and closings… and while Klaus Schwab talks about the great capitalist reset from shares to stakes but not to sovereign states, China is busy establishing the new silk road and consolidating its neighbors into cooperative economic behavior. I don’t even want to know what that combined CO2 footprint is. Cooperative economics has really already been precluded here in the West – we can’t turn back that clock. So, Biden is looking for an excuse to go to war. He is wasting no time letting Russia and China know. It’s possible that when Yellen says spend whatever is necessary now she is being encouraged by Biden and the militarists who will receive much of that financial aid whether we actually go to war or not. It would be so idiotic and wasteful it is hard to imagine that even that dope Biden would march us off to war. So when YV talks about “financial engineering for a better world” it sounds too Klaus Schwab to embrace at face value. I don’t see how a switch from shareholders to stakeholders is going to change western capitalism significantly unless there is a financial separation between old capitalism and new capitalism. That being the West and China. And the big problem there is that capital seeks its best return. Otherwise it’s not capital for long. So either direction we are looking, (neoliberalism or socialism) financial engineering will have to restrain capital, hence “capitalism” will be a euphemism. Which it has been for a long time, but who’s even noticing? It’s possible that “war” as we knew it is also a thing of the past and when Biden salivates for war he’ll have to be content to just do “war engineering” to achieve the necessary separation from China. It’s all so meta. The irony is that the thing called “sovereignty” is the only tool we have to organize all this neoliberal and/or social protection. And the big one – the environment? Still no details.

  7. Sound of the Suburbs

    Why isn’t capitalism working as it should?
    You need to identify where real wealth creation occurs in the economy to get it working well.
    Houston, we have a problem.

    Mankind first started to produce a surplus with early agriculture.
    It wasn’t long before the elites learnt how to read the skies, the sun and the stars, to predict the coming seasons to the amazed masses and collect tribute.
    They soon made the most of the opportunity and removed themselves from any hard work to concentrate on “spiritual matters”, i.e. any hocus-pocus they could come up with to elevate them from the masses, e.g. rituals, fertility rights, offering to the gods …. etc and to turn the initially small tributes, into extracting all the surplus created by the hard work of the rest.
    The elites became the representatives of the gods and they were responsible for the bounty of the earth and the harvests.
    As long as all the surplus was handed over, all would be well.

    The class structure emerges.
    Upper class – Do as little as they can get away with and get most of the rewards
    Middle class – Administrative/managerial class who have enough to live a comfortable life
    Working class – Do the work, and live a basic subsistence existence where they get enough to stay alive and breed

    Their techniques have got more sophisticated over time, but this is the underlying idea.
    They have achieved a total inversion, and got most of the rewards going to those that don’t do anything.
    The last thing they needed was “The Enlightenment” as people would work out what was really going on.
    They did work out what was going on and this had to be hidden again.

    The Classical Economists had a quick look around and noticed the aristocracy were maintained in luxury and leisure by the hard work of everyone else.
    They haven’t done anything economically productive for centuries, they couldn’t miss it.
    The Classical economist, Adam Smith:
    “The labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money. But every savage has the full fruits of his own labours; there are no landlords, no usurers and no tax gatherers.”
    There was no benefits system in those days, and if those at the bottom didn’t work they died.
    They had to earn money to live.
    The classical economists could never imagine those at the bottom rising out of a bare subsistence existence as that was the way it had always been.

    Economics was always far too dangerous to be allowed to reveal the truth about the economy.
    How can we protect those powerful vested interests at the top of society?
    The early neoclassical economists hid the problems of rentier activity in the economy by removing the difference between “earned” and “unearned” income and they conflated “land” with “capital”.
    They took the focus off the cost of living that had been so important to the Classical Economists as this is where rentier activity in the economy shows up.
    The landowners, landlords and usurers were now just productive members of society again.

    Economists do identify where real wealth creation in the economy occurs, but this is a most inconvenient truth as it reveals many at the top don’t actually create any wealth.
    Confuse making money and creating wealth and this problem goes away and we can get back to the traditional order.

    Upper class – Do as little as they can get away with and get most of the rewards
    Middle class – Administrative/managerial class who have enough to live a comfortable life
    Working class – Do the work, and live a basic subsistence existence where they get enough to stay alive and breed

    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      What happens when you confuse making money and creating wealth?
      We are forty years in, just look around.

      When you equate making money with creating wealth, people try and make money in the easiest way possible, which doesn’t actually create any wealth.
      In 1984, for the first time in American history, “unearned” income exceeded “earned” income.
      The American have lost sight of what real wealth creation is, and are just focussed on making money.
      You might as well do that in the easiest way possible.
      It looks like a parasitic rentier capitalism because that is what it is.

      You’ve just got to sniff out the easy money.
      All that hard work involved in setting up a company yourself, and building it up.
      Why bother?
      Asset strip firms other people have built up, that’s easy money.
      The private equity firms have found an easy way to make money that doesn’t actually create any wealth.
      Letting private equity firms ransack your economy is not really a good idea, even though they do make lots of money.

      Bankers make the most money when they are driving your economy into a financial crisis.
      They will load your economy up with their debt products until you get a financial crisis.
      On a BBC documentary, comparing 1929 to 2008, it said the last time US bankers made as much money as they did before 2008 was in the 1920s.
      At 18 mins.
      The bankers loaded the US economy up with their debt products until they got financial crises in 1929 and 2008.
      As you head towards the financial crisis, the economy booms due to the money creation of bank loans.
      The financial crisis appears to come out of a clear blue sky when you use an economics that doesn’t consider debt, like neoclassical economics.

      UK bankers started to make a lot of money after 1980.
      Oh no.

      The UK used to be the great financial superpower and it looks as though we understood this in the past.
      Someone knew what real wealth creation was and how banks should work.

      What happened in 1979?
      The UK eliminated corset controls on banking in 1979, the banks invaded the mortgage market and this is where the problem starts.
      The transfer of existing assets, like real estate, doesn’t add to GDP, so debt rises faster than GDP until you get a financial crisis.

      Before 1980 – banks lending into the right places that result in GDP growth (business and industry, creating new products and services in the economy)
      Debt grows with GDP
      Bankers don’t make much money

      After 1980 – banks lending into the wrong places that don’t result in GDP growth (real estate and financial speculation)
      Debt rises faster than GDP
      Bankers make lots of money

      2008 – The financial crisis

      Banks – What is the idea?
      The idea is that banks lend into business and industry to increase the productive capacity of the economy.
      Business and industry don’t have to wait until they have the money to expand. They can borrow the money and use it to expand today, and then pay that money back in the future.
      The economy can then grow more rapidly than it would without banks.
      Debt grows with GDP and there are no problems.
      The banks create money and use it to create real wealth.

    2. Sound of the Suburbs

      They took the focus off the cost of living that had been so important to the Classical Economists as this is where rentier activity in the economy shows up.
      What will happen?
      Now everyone trips up over the cost of living, even the Chinese.
      It is well hidden.

      Someone from the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) has just seen the equation.
      Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
      Two seconds later …..
      They realise the UK’s high housing costs push up wages, and are actually paid by the UK’s employers reducing profit.
      UK’s high housing costs make UK labour very expensive compared to elsewhere in the world, and it makes it very expensive to do anything in the UK.
      Employees get their money from wages.
      Employers pay the UK’s high housing costs in wages reducing profit.

      You can pay wages elsewhere that people couldn’t live on in the West.
      To maximise profit you will need to off-shore.

      Why was China always going to be the winner in an open, globalised world?
      Maximising profit is all about reducing costs.
      Western companies couldn’t wait to off-shore to low cost China, where they could make higher profits.
      China had coal fired power stations to provide cheap energy.
      China had lax regulations reducing environmental and health and safety costs.
      China had a low cost of living so employers could pay low wages.
      China had low taxes and a minimal welfare state.
      China had all the advantages in an open globalised world.
      It did have, but now China has become more expensive and developed Eastern economies are off-shoring to places like Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

      China trips up over the cost of living.

      Davos 2019 – The Chinese have now realised high housing costs eat into consumer spending and they wanted to increase internal consumption.
      They let real estate rip and have now realised why that wasn’t a good idea.

      The equation makes it so easy.
      Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
      The cost of living term goes up with increased housing costs.
      The disposable income term goes down.
      They didn’t have the equation, they used neoclassical economics.
      The Chinese had to learn the hard way and it took years.

      They have let the cost of living rise and they want to increase internal consumption.
      Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
      It’s a double whammy on wages.
      China isn’t as competitive as it used to be.
      China has become more expensive and developed Eastern economies are off-shoring to places like Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

      I worked the other way.
      I looked at the world around me and worked back to find the cause.

      1. Sound of the Suburbs

        We got some stuff from Ricardo, like the law of comparative advantage.
        What’s gone missing?

        Ricardo was part of the new capitalist class, and the old landowning class were a huge problem with their rents that had to be paid both directly and through wages.
        “The interest of the landlords is always opposed to the interest of every other class in the community” Ricardo 1815 / Classical Economist

        What does our man on free trade, Ricardo, mean?
        Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
        Employees get their money from wages and the employers pay the cost of living through wages, reducing profit.
        Employees get less disposable income after the landlords rent has gone.
        Employers have to cover the landlord’s rents in wages reducing profit.
        Ricardo is just talking about housing costs, employees all rented in those days.
        Low housing costs work best for employers and employees.

        In Ricardo’s world there were three classes.
        He was in the capitalist class.
        The more he paid in labour costs (wages) the lower his profits would be.
        He was paying the cost of living for his workers through wages, and the higher that was, the higher labour costs would be.
        There was no benefits system in those days and those at the bottom needed to earn money to cover the cost of living otherwise they would die. They had to earn their money through wages.
        The more he paid in rents to the old landowning class, the less there would be for him to keep for himself.

        From Ricardo:
        The labourers had before 25
        The landlords 25
        And the capitalists 50
        ……….. 100

        He looked at how the pie got divided between the three groups.

        The capitalist system actually contains a welfare state to maintain an old money, idle rich in luxury and leisure. In the UK we still have an aristocracy, so it is hard to forget.
        The Classical economist, Adam Smith:
        “The labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money.”

        There were three groups in the capitalist system in Ricardo’s world (and there still are).
        Workers / Employees
        Capitalists / Employers
        Rentiers / Landowners / Landlords / other skimmers, who are just skimming out of the system, not contributing to its success
        The unproductive group exists at the top of society, not the bottom.
        Later on we did bolt on a benefit system to help others that were struggling lower down the scale.

  8. Baldanders

    Left-wing gun enthusiasts? We’ve been around, completely ignored by right and left. We don’t fit the mass narratives enough to warrant coverage.

    Now that pro-union, leftist Black folks are getting armed (at least in my part of the woods) I think the DNC might want to reconsider gun control–which always involves less guns for the working class–as a priority.

    I highly recommend “Tacticool Girlfriend” on YouTube as a good resource for NC readers interested in exercising their 2a rights. Kinda like ContraPoints meets a gun channel.

    InRange is a good channel for Woke gun content in general. Karl goes on some pretty good rants about the nastier elements in gun culture. He has an extremely good video just up where he gives a hilarious reading of a crappy, paranoid book on educating kids on “why Mommy has a gun.” Tone is best described as “acidic.”

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If the DNC gets wind of what you are describing in your comment, the DNC will try pushing Liberal Fascist Pig gun control faster and harder than ever.

  9. ben lebsanft

    thanks for the article

    History tells us its probably more accurate than ever.
    the real left ends up eating their own, they just cant get past the thinking.

    We all get chances to take a different path in life, and so do countries, The article is right, Biden gave up his chance to bring peace, and well, he just walked on by, with no intention of taking a more conciliatory approach.

  10. Schofield

    Why does it not strike Republican Party politicians and supporters that allowing Trump to continue roaming around like a rogue elephant threatening democracy simply results in less investment in the economy? Businesses require a stable society and an assurance that contractural law will be fairly applied and not subject to cronyism.

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