Monday, March 21, 2016

10 ways the Clinton, Obama, and Wasserman Schultz Wrecking Crew are destroying the New Deal and the Democratic Party

Above: Henry Wallace, 1939. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In 1944, Vice President and former Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace said: "The New Deal is not dead. If it were dead the Democratic Party would be dead, and well dead" (John Culver and John Hyde, American Dreamer: A Life of Henry A. Wallace, W. W. Norton & Co., 2000, p. 321).

I would like to suggest that the New Deal is dying, the Democratic Party is dying, and politicians like President Obama, the Clintons, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are responsible.  

Recently, in discussing his new book--Listen Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People--historian and author Thomas Frank said this of Bill Clinton: "So he’s cracking down on poor people--you know, they passed the big omnibus crime law in 1994--cracking down on the poor, and at the same time letting Wall Street do whatever it wanted [deregulation]...These are Democrats that did this, it’s not Republicans. And they did it wholeheartedly."

That doesn't sound very "New Dealish" to me.

And Frank said this of Obama and white collar crime: "Even this guy, George W. Bush, knew that he had to get tough with [white collar criminals]. And he went and he prosecuted Enron. And a lot of those Enron officials went to prison. OK? And you look at Barack Obama, a Democrat, who we all, you know, we elected with great relief--George W. Bush is gone, this is fantastic, we’ve got this wonderful president--and how many bankers has he prosecuted? You know, there’s this long tradition in this country of prosecuting white-collar crime; you get to Barack Obama, and it just completely stops. All of a sudden, these wonderful professionals on Wall Street are above the law."

So, let's see, we have modern "Democrats" cracking down on the poor, but pampering the wealthy. This is the exact opposite of what the New Deal did. For example, New Deal policymakers created several public works programs and hired millions of unemployed Americans to fix roads, build bridges, paint murals, plant trees, and so on, so that they could earn a living while they were looking for regular job openings. At the same time, New Deal policymakers created the Securities and Exchange Commission to police Wall Street fraud. And, when a Wall Street lawyer offered advice on how to properly regulate Wall Street, a chairman of the SEC--New Dealer William Douglas--essentially said, "Um, no thanks, we'll take care of it from here."

Let me give you some more examples of how Obama, the Clintons, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are destroying the New Deal and the Democratic Party. As you're considering these, you might ask yourself, "Is it any wonder that over the past several years the Democratic Party has lost 82 seats in Congress, 12 governor's mansions, and 910 state legislative seats?" (See, e.g., "How badly has the Obama era damaged the Democratic party?," Washington Post, November 4, 2015, and "Have Democrats lost 900 seats in state legislatures since Obama has been president?" Politifact, January 25, 2015).     

1. Social Security 

Bill Clinton wanted to privatize Social Security (so his Wall Street friends could have more money to gamble with), Hillary Clinton hesitated on expanding it, and President Obama has tried to cut it. That's our Democratic Party today.

The New Deal approach: Well, not much needs to be said here--since the New Deal created Social Security--but New Deal policymakers simply felt that, "Hey, if a lot of elderly Americans are poor, and private business doesn't give a rat's behind about the problem, and we can't count on Wall Street to be stable, maybe we ought to do something about it ourselves." And so they did.


Above: In this 3-minute video (which is Not Safe for Work, due to "colorful" language), George Carlin explains why so many benefits, including Social Security, are constantly being reduced or constantly under threat of reduction or privatization. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5dBZDSSky0.

2. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) 

President Obama wanted to sell this incredible New Deal creation. The idea was so utterly stupid, that even Republicans came to the rescue of Roosevelt's TVA.

The New Deal approach: Again, the New Deal created TVA, and TVA is still providing affordable power to millions of Americans today.

3. Free Trade Agreements (a.k.a. Let's Decimate American Workers Agreements) 

Bill Clinton signed off on NAFTA, President Obama negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in secret meetings with Corporate America (while shutting the public out), and who knows what the hell Hillary has in store for us. Free trade agreements are awful for unions, they're workers, and workers' wages. NAFTA has done nothing for middle-class incomes, outside of freezing them (so, just coincidentally of course, the super-wealthy can pocket all the extra profit from manufacturing things overseas). And the TPP will just double-down on this bad policy.

The New Deal approach: New Deal policymakers also had a fairly liberal trade policy. But, like virtually every other thing they did, they did it better than today's Democrats. As the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative highlights, New Deal trade policy "resulted in the conclusion of 19 new trade agreements between 1934 and 1939, strong growth in U.S. exports, and the recovery of the American economy" (emphasis added).

4. Health Insurance For All 

Once in office, Obama backed away from the public option to please his corporate backers. The resulting Affordable Care Act has been good, but far from what it should have been (and far more complex than what it needs to be). More recently, Hillary Clinton has told Bernie Sanders and his supporters that they're unrealistically fighting for single-payer health insurance (e.g., Medicare care for all).

The New Deal approach: New Deal policymakers were definitely pushing us towards greater and greater health care for all Americans. The WPA operated health clinics for people of modest or low income, the PWA funded many new hospitals, and the CCC provided medical services for its young forest army (most of whom came from low-income backgrounds). In 1944, during his Second Bill of Rights speech, FDR advocated for a right to adequate medical care.

Above: This WPA poster perfectly sums up the New Deal philosophy on health care. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

5. Glass-Steagall 

Bill Clinton signed off on the final repeal of Glass-Steagall (so his Wall Street friends could have more money to gamble with--are you seeing a pattern here?) and Hillary says she has no intentions of re-instating it, despite the fact that Glass-Steagall (and other common sense laws) stabilized American banking from the New Deal era to the Reagan era. Once deregulation started, surprise surprise, bank failures and bank scandals have increased.

The New Deal approach: New Deal policymakers created Glass-Steagall to regulate what money the banks could gamble with and what money they could not gamble with. They wanted to reduce the risk of financial calamities that would hurt the entire nation. In other words, they were shell-shocked by the recent incompetence and fraud in the banking sector and wanted to avoid Great Depression II. Well, it's no coincidence that the recent Great Recession occurred not too long after the repeal of Glass-Steagall (and other deregulation). For an interesting article on the impact of Glass-Steagall's repeal on the recent recession, see "Repeal of Glass-Steagall: Not a Cause, But a Multiplier," Washington Post, August 4, 2012.  

6. Taxes 

Though Obama, Bill, and Hillary are not as crazy as Republicans & Tea Partiers on the issue of tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy, they don't try to push for significantly higher taxes either, just a few percentage points maybe (which are offset, I'm sure, by backroom-brokered tax gifts).

The New Deal Approach: New Deal policymakers maintained and implemented steeply progressive tax rates: "When it came to taxes, Roosevelt simply believed that rich people should pay more than poor people. And in emergencies, they should pay a lot more" (Joseph J. Thorndike, Their Fair Share: Taxing the Rich in the Age of FDR, Urban Institute Press, 2013, p. 45).

7. Bankruptcy 

In 2001, Hillary voted to make bankruptcy more difficult for struggling Americans. Also, I haven't heard anything from her (or Obama) about trying to repeal the awful 2005 Bush-era bankruptcy reforms (bought and paid for by the financial industry, of course - the same industry that gives cash to Obama and Clinton). As is usual with Corporate Democrats, they watch a ruthless act become law, don't have the energy or inclination to revisit it, and eventually everyone forgets what life was like before the awful thing was passed.

The New Deal approach: I'm not aware of any New Deal effort to make personal bankruptcy more difficult. New Deal policymakers were interested in lowering the misery of impoverished Americans, not trapping them in it. For example, the Frazier-Lemke Farm Bankruptcy Act protected farmers from greedy creditors who wanted to quickly repossess their farms. Other New Deal policies helped struggling farmers get credit and lower the amount of their existing debt (see the program summaries at the Living New Deal).

8. Organized Money 

President Obama is currently campaigning for Hillary Clinton and recently told a bunch of his wealthy buddies--who paid thousands of dollars to attend a private (i.e., no middle-class or poor people allowed) event--that they should start shoveling money towards Hillary. And, of course, Hillary and Obama often hobnob with bank executives, hedge fund managers, and super-wealthy investors; many of whom have destroyed millions of people's lives, and want to destroy millions more if that's what it takes to get the next big dividend (See, e.g., "Clinton and Bush Promise Relief For Puerto Rico While Raking In Cash From Its Vulture Fund Creditors," ThinkProgress, September 4, 2015),

The New Deal approach: There's no doubt that Roosevelt had some wealthy backers, but he also tried to move us in a different direction - a direction where money would play a smaller and smaller role in our government.


Above: In this audio, FDR tells the nation what he thinks of organized money in government. Today, in a nation full of plutocrats, white collar criminals, and political puppets, I never grow tired of hearing Roosevelt's declaration, "I welcome their hatred!"

9. Public Jobs for the Unemployed

Neither President Obama nor Establishment Democrats supported the idea of a new WPA in 2011, even as millions of Americans were laid off, had their credit destroyed, faced hiring discrimination, and were losing hope. Obama and his fellow Corporate Democrats, instead, opted to support trickle-down economics, i.e., don't tax the super-wealthy too much, don't prosecute Wall Street, and bring plenty of Wall Street cronies into the White House Administration to "manage" the "recovery" (which, to this day, is nothing but a low-wage "recovery").

The New Deal Approach: New Deal policymakers hired millions of Americans into work-relief programs: The CCC, the CWA, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the WPA, and the NYA. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA alone hired 8.5 million jobless Americans. I understand that such a program would have been difficult (or impossible) to get through Congress but, at the very least, Obama could have used the bully pulpit to make a case for a new WPA; and also to teach Americans about the history of the WPA, for example, "You know you're still using thousands of their roads, bridges, and water lines, right?" That's what a strong leader does. He/she doesn't just fight for what might be easier to get through the legislature, he/she also fights for what's right and what's accurate.

10. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

So, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, is the Manager of Plutocracy in all this, a sort of ring-leader for the Democratic Elite. For example, she has ensured that Bernie Sanders' New Deal-type messages have received as little airtime as possible; protected loan sharks from lending oversight because they gave her money, and said this about the Democratic Party's undemocratic super-delegate system (a system that can, essentially, strip a candidate of a presidential nomination if the Democratic Establishment feels that he or she is not sufficiently obedient to Corporate America, e.g., a Bernie Sanders-type candidate): "Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists." That, folks, is plutocracy. But let's give her credit for being honest.

In sum, if the Democratic Elite can't get their favored nominee through the usual media distortion and opponent suppression, the rigged super-delegate system stands ready. This time, distortion and suppression worked just fine (as it usually does). Who knows what tomorrow will hold, however, if/when the public ever wakes up to what's been done to them over the past several decades.

Don't Give In

Near the end of his interview about Listen Liberal, Frank says: "And so you start to think that the game that the Clintons play with us, where we vote for them because we have nowhere else to go--you know, it’s a two-party system, it’s a duopoly, and there’s... a sort of political economics of how we the voter are manipulated in this situation, and they’re very, very good at playing that game. And so people like you and me, who are on the left, are captured, basically; we don’t have anywhere else to go, and they play us in a certain way. So in writing this book, I’m coming up against, I have a lot of friends who say well, you can’t criticize the Democrats, because you’ll just, you’ll weaken them and then the Republicans will get in. But I say that we can’t give up our critical faculties just because of the ugly historical situation that we’re currently in."

I agree 100%. We can't compromise our principles, yet again, because the Democratic Elite are giving us little or no choice. We have to stop voting for Clinton-type candidates because, "Well, the other Democratic hopeful doesn't seem electable," or because, "Well, the Republican candidate will be much worse." And so I make my plea again, like Constable Mike Anderson pleaded with the townspeople of Little Tall Island in the the Stephen King movie Storm of the Century (see clip below):


Above: A brief clip from the Stephen King Movie, Storm of the Century. See my blog post here for an explanation of how the dilemma in the movie is very similar to the dilemma we constantly face in presidential elections, i.e., selecting the lesser of two evils. And lately, with the Democratic Party's abandonment of the New Deal, and both parties bought by organized money, this "lesser of two evils" selection is more odious than ever. I, for one, will not participate in it anymore (yes Jill Stein, if Sanders loses you have my vote!). Until we have the guts to say "no more," plutocracy will continue to become more and more entrenched in our culture. Our wages will continue to stagnate, our personal debt will continue to rise, and our involvement in middle-eastern affairs will continue to grow. All this and more will ensure that our children will never fully know peace and prosperity.

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