Friday, April 29, 2016

The Democratic Party has been taken over by conservatives who have normalized fraud and corruption. Progressives should leave - ASAP.

Above: President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935. It's a good thing Roosevelt and his fellow policymakers created Social Security, because Democrats like President Obama and Hillary Clinton would have scoffed at the idea, calling it "impractical." Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

In a recent interview, Vice President Joe Biden scolded the small ideas of the Clinton campaign and embraced the big ideas of the Sanders Campaign: "I like the idea of saying, 'We can do much more,' because we can... I don't think any Democrat’s ever won saying, ‘We can't think that big - we ought to really downsize here because it's not realistic.' C'mon man, this is the Democratic Party! I’m not part of the party that says, 'Well, we can't do it.'"

Unfortunately, Mr. Biden, you are. Your party has been taken over by conservatives. You can see it everywhere: In Clinton's speeches poo-pooing the "impractical" ideas of Bernie Sanders and his supporters; in the Democratic Establishment's solicitation of cash from white collar criminals; in Internet comments to news stories about Hillary's ideas vs. Bernie's ideas; in media coverage; and so on.

Today, in an amazing op-ed on the news site Mother Jones (oh, the irony), journalist Kevin Drum writes: "And when [Bernie Sanders'] revolution inevitably fails, where do all his impressionable young followers go? Do they join up with the corrupt establishment and commit themselves to the slow boring of hard wood? Or do they give up? I don't know, but my fear is that some of them will do the latter. And that's a damn shame."

wow! Wow! WOW!

Essentially, Drum offers two choices (there are more choices of course) and ultimately favors joining up "with the corrupt establishment." That's an astounding proposition.

Drum goes on to write: "I'll grant that my pitch--and Hillary's and Barack Obama's--isn't very inspiring. Work your fingers to the bone for 30 years and you might get one or two significant pieces of legislation passed." Again, WOW! Essentially, Drum is asking us to join him for 30 years of brutally hard work that "might" get "one or two significant pieces of legislation passed." Um, no thanks Mr. Drum. But have fun with that.

Above: President Roosevelt and his fellow New Deal policymakers created the WPA to employ 8.5 million jobless Americans and to modernize American infrastructure. If you transported today's Democratic Establishment back to 1935, they would laugh at Roosevelt, call the WPA "impractical," and tell FDR's supporters, "Boy oh boy, are you foolish and naive! You don't know how change occurs!!" Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.

Another amazing theme in Drum's piece is that people who don't join up with him and Hillary may end up hurting the Democratic Party: "Most likely Bernie will have no lasting effect, and his followers will scatter in the usual way, with some doubling down on practical politics and others leaving for different callings. But there's a decent chance that Bernie's failure will result in a net increase of cynicism about politics, and that's the last thing we need. I hate the idea that we might lose even a few talented future leaders because they fell for Bernie's spiel and then got discouraged when it didn't pan out."

Drum seems oblivious to the fact that the Democratic Party has been pulverized by the uninspiring agenda that he so proudly touts as the superior strategy. Over the last several years, Democrats have lost 1,000 federal and state political offices; in large part because voters are uninspired by the modern Democratic Party's wimpy and corporate-coddling agenda. For heaven's sake, the chair of the Democratic National Committee is funded by loan sharks!

Drum's op-ed is just the latest in a long list of things that should be setting off alarm bells in progressives. We should not be in league with people who tell us our ideas are silly and that we should instead "join up with the corrupt establishment" in the hope that we can make one or two significant changes between now and 2046.

No, we should not join the corrupt establishment. No, we should not vote for Hillary Clinton, a politician who takes campaign cash and huge speaking fees from financial fraudsters. We should stick to our principles, come hell or high water. Consider this: On many occasions, our ancestors gave their lives for a higher cause, e.g., to end slavery, to end Nazism. So, can't we also take a little pain in pursuit of a higher cause (i.e., a nation of better wages, less suicide, less war, less income inequality, less student loan debt, less child homelessness, less incarceration, etc.)? It seems to me that the least we progressives can do is to refuse to vote for corruption and plutocracy, even if that means Trump is elected and the next 4-8 years are somewhat more horrible than they would have been under Clinton. Let's abandon the back-stabbing Democratic Party and build a truly progressive party for the future.

Above: In this video clip, we see President Roosevelt giving his Second Bill of Rights speech in 1944. Among other things, Roosevelt called for "the right to a useful and remunerative job," "the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation," "the right of every family to a decent home," "the right to adequate medical care," "the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment," and "the right to a good education." If you suggested some of these things today, the Democratic Establishment and their supporters would say, "What??? The right to a well-paying job? The right to have enough money for recreation?? The right to a decent home?? no, No, NO!! How are you going to pay for all those things?!? The next thing you're going to tell me is that you want to raise taxes on the wealthy, punishing them for their success!!" Original YouTube link:

The Democratic Party is playing us for suckers - rigging the nomination process, scolding our idealism, snickering at our goal to reduce the influence of corporate cash on policy-making, and trying to scare us with the lesser-of-two-evils warning that they roll out every four years. They've called us starry-eyed dreamers, little children, and misogynists--all the while pocketing more campaign cash from the super-wealthy crooks they've protected from criminal prosecution. And now they have the gall to demand, "Okay, you better stop fighting! You better stop being foolish little children! You need to lick your wounds and support us! After all, You don't want Trump in there, do you??"

Oh. My. God. Well, I try to keep my blog relatively clean, so I'll just say that my answer to the Democratic Establishment begins with an expletive and ends with a "you."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Plutocracy wins big

Above: Franklin Roosevelt in New York, 1928. In 1938, President Roosevelt said that the "the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism - ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power." Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.

Hillary Clinton and her Wall Street backers whipped Bernie Sanders and his call for a better democracy, winning four out of five primaries last night. Billionaire Trump had a big night too. Plutocracy, or Fascism, or Oligarchy, or whatever you want to call it, won big.

We know that the voices of the middle-class and the poor are drowned out by the policy preferences of Wall Street, Corporate America, and the super-wealthy (see, e.g., "It's Official: In America, Affluence Equals Influence: A new study shows policy caters  to the desires of wealthy Americans," U.S. News & World Report, April 22, 2014). We also know that Hillary Clinton received far more money from Wall Street, Corporate America, and the super-wealthy than Bernie Sanders. Yet, that hasn't stopped millions of middle-class and poor Americans from supporting Clinton. I don't understand that at all, but it's certainly not a surprise either. We have a very rich tradition of voting against our interests - which is why so many children are homeless, so many people are killing themselves, wages have been stagnant for decades, and college graduates are mired in $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. We just can't stop ourselves from voting for people who have little or no interest in our well-being.

And so, whether it's Clinton or Trump who ends up in the White House, we must now mentally prepare ourselves for 4-8 more years of winner-take-all capitalism - and all the fraud, greed, selfishness, war, suicide, homelessness, incarceration, debt and poverty that such an economic system demands.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

New Deal Art: "Local Industries"

Above: "Local Industries," an oil painting and mural study by Natalie Smith Henry (1907-1992), created while she was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, ca. 1940. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

(A closer look at the left-half of the painting.)

(A closer look at the right-half of the painting.)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Struggling and suicidal Americans: New Deal policymakers said, "We're here to help." Today, we say, "Go ahead and jump." A collective, national disgrace.

(A WPA librarian reads to a bed-ridden man in Kentucky, ca. 1935-1943. This type of compassion, facilitated by New Deal policymakers, is rare today. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

Years ago, a woman stood on a bridge in Seattle and prepared to kill herself. Someone in the gathering crowd yelled, "Jump, bitch, jump!" So, she did (but apparently survived serious injuries). Another distraught person, more recently, stood on a ledge of a building, ready to end it all. Shouts from the crowd below included, "Do it already!", "Idiot!", and "Stupid Motherf&*ker!" The man jumped to his death.

"Cruel, yes. Unusual? Experts say no." ("Why Bridge Jumper Was Taunted," ABC News, August 30, 2001.

Suicides have been rising over these past many years, pretty much in correlation with the the deterioration of the middle-class, the shredding of the social safety net, and a modern ethos that holds: If you're not rich and successful you're a failed human being at best and a parasite at worst. And, let's be honest, the label "parasite" is pretty much synonymous with, "Society would be better off without you."

In 2014, the most recent year we have complete data for, 42,773 Americans killed themselves - about 117 per day. Here are the numbers since 2005:

2005: 32,637 (11.04 suicides per 100,000 people)
2006: 33,300 (11.16)
2007: 34,598 (11.49)
2008: 36,035 (11.85)
2009: 36,909 (12.03)
2010: 38,364 (12.43)
2011: 39,518 (12.68)
2012: 40,600 (12.93)
2013: 41,149 (13.00)
2014: 42,773 (13.41)

As you can see, over the past 10 years nearly 376,000 Americans have killed themselves, and the rate per 100,000 has increased each year. (Figures from the CDC, "Fatal Injury Reports, National and Regional, 1999-2014," accessed April 23, 2016.) 

(This WPA nurse is making a house call for a sick child in New Orleans, 1936. New Deal policymakers paid unemployed health care professionals to assist Americans in need. They also trained other unemployed people to provide housekeeping and cooking services for ill parents. Suggest such a thing today, and you'll be laughed out of the room. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

In 2013, a sociologist from Oxford University and an epidemiologist from Stanford University estimated that for "every $100 in New Deal spending per capita," there was "a drop in suicides of 4 per 100,000 people" ("How Austerity Kills," New York Times, May 12, 2013). 

If the trend continues from recent years, we could have about 44,000 suicides this year. But, if we were able to replicate New Deal spending and New Deal policies (work for the unemployed, increased health care, better retirements, etc.), and thus reduce the rate of suicide by 4 per 100,000, we could save over 12,000 lives. If we created an even stronger New Deal, perhaps we could cut the annual number of suicides in half.

But the real question is: Do we even care that our fellow citizens are killing themselves? Not only is it routine for some Americans to persuade the distraught to kill themselves, but we also have Republican policymakers that are constantly trying to shred social safety net programs like food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Social Security, and we also have conservative Democrats, like President Obama, who shun New Deal-type policies that would help reduce suicide - for example, a new WPA (unemployment is highly linked to suicide rates - see, e.g., here, here, and here) and conservative Democrats like Hillary Clinton, who tell us that bold ideas are impractical and foolish.

(In this 1935 photo, we see transient men working in a surplus commodities warehouse in San Francisco.  Transient workers were temporarily or permanently homeless, and roamed the countryside looking for jobs. The New Deal hired them for various projects, and the surplus commodities you see above were distributed by the New Deal's Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation. It was a win-win situation: The unemployed received jobs and low-income Americans received cooking items, mattresses, pillows, towels, and more. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

If you suggested to the average policymaker today, "I think we should create a government jobs program for the unemployed; it would improve our nation's infrastructure and reduce depression and suicide," they would think you were a pie-in-the-sky dreamer, or perhaps even a lunatic. How many times do you hear policymakers even discuss the issue of suicide, let alone do something about it? You see, most of our policymakers today are idiots - at least in terms of their knowledge of history. They don't know--and, more importantly, don't care to know--that New Deal policymakers created a jobs program for the unemployed; that infrastructure was improved and suicide rates reduced; and that we are still utilizing many work-relief infrastructure projects today. And their idiocy, as well as their lack of vision, empathy, and leadership skills, are a fundamental reason why more and more Americans are killing themselves - a fundamental reason why they accept increasing rates of suicide and brush aside ideas to reduce them.

Make no mistake about it, the power-mad imbeciles that govern us today--in their pursuit of corporate cash and their denunciation of bold ideas--have blood on their hands (as do the corporations and super-wealthy who send jobs overseas, evade taxes, and pay politicians to protect their criminal activity).  

New Deal policymakers said: "We're here to help." Today, both policymakers and citizens say, "Go ahead and jump." And this is the kind of society that is created when millions buy into the idea that government is the problem and greed & selfishness are the solutions. It is a mass sickness that we have succumbed to.

"Many people view suicide as a mental health problem, but many people who die of suicide do not have a mental health problem. It’s a public health problem."

--Kristin Holland, Behavioral Scientist, Centers for Disease Control, 2016 (link)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

After losing 1,000 federal and state political offices with their uninspiring, corrupt, and anti-New Deal agenda, the Democratic Establishment tells Bernie Sanders supporters, "You're going to hurt the party with your criticism!"

(President Roosevelt at a CCC camp in Virginia, 1933. FDR and his fellow policymakers inspired Americans with a New Deal. Today's Democratic Party, on the other hand, has thrown inspiration out the window. Instead, they tell us, "You better hold your nose and vote for us! You don't want a Republican in there, do you??" Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

Over the past several years, the Democratic Party has lost about 82 seats in Congress, 12 governor's mansions, and 910 state legislative seats (see, e.g., here and here). After getting pummeled at the ballot box in 2014, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, said, "Our party has a problem." Two years later, without batting an eye, she threw her support behind predatory lenders who had given her campaign cash. Gee, I wonder what the problem with the Democratic Party is.

We also know that President Obama has refused to criminally prosecute well-heeled white collar criminals; has negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with the assistance of Corporate America and the exclusion of workers; has brought in Wall Street insiders to manage the government and the economy to their benefit; and that the Democratic Elite (including Obama and Hillary Clinton) regularly rake in campaign cash from an industry that has engaged in record-setting fraud (big financial institutions).

At the same time that they are doing these things (and at the same time that the Fortune 400 is adding tens, even hundreds of billions of dollars to their already-bloated fortunes), the Democratic Establishment has poo-poohed the ideas of universal health insurance, free public college, massive infrastructure improvements, etc., as pie-in-the-sky foolishness.

In short, the agenda of the Democratic Establishment consists of watered-down goals and a criminal protection racket that, essentially, tells the super-wealthy, "Look, as long as you keep contributing to our political machine, and as long as you're willing to pay a fine here and there, you can run your frauds on the American people. We won't prosecute."

This uninspiring and corrupt agenda has kept many Democratic voters home on election days. Others, like me, have left the Democratic Party altogether. I will not team-up with the financial institutions that have worked so very hard to make my life more difficult than it has to be, and I suspect there are many others who feel the same. (See "Democratic, Republican Identification Near Historical Lows," Gallup, January 11, 2016.)

And so now we are hearing some interesting things coming from the Democratic Establishment. Hillary Clinton's campaign manager has recently issued a statement that reads, in part, "The Sanders campaign's false attacks have gotten out of hand. As Senator Sanders faces nearly insurmountable odds, he is resorting to baseless accusations of illegal actions and poisoning the well for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. Instead of trying to convince the next generation of progressives that the Democratic Party is corrupt, Senator Sanders should stick to the issues [as if campaign finance is not an issue] and think about what he can do to help the Party he is seeking to lead."

Yes, after the Democratic Establishment has lost 1,000 federal and state political offices through its uninspiring and corrupt agenda, they have the gall to tell Sanders, "Oh my goodness, you're going hurt the party!!"

And the talking heads are brow-beating Sanders' supporters too. In an op-ed ironically titled, "Liberals Losing Perspective," former White House policy analyst Jeff Schweitzer scolds Sanders' supporters with this amazing statement: "So fellow liberals, stop moaning about Obama and be grateful for his courage... And we must stop this ridiculous and I must say childish rant that we won’t support the Democratic nominee if he or she is not our first choice [he means Clinton]. Let idealism guide your heart and realism guide your vote."

Wow! So, if we don't support the rigged nomination process, and if we don't support a Wall Street financed candidate [Clinton]--after Wall Street has done so much to wreck our finances--and if we don't support a candidate who has voted to make bankruptcy more difficult for struggling Americans; and does not support the re-implementation of Glass-Steagall to limit bank gambling; and has hesitated on expanding Social Security--even as her corporate buddies are gutting fixed-pension plans; and has a militaristic worldview; and is keeping her statements to Goldman Sachs secret; well, we're just being "childish."

The Democratic Establishment wants us to vote out of fear - fear that if we don't vote for their candidate, a much worse Republican candidate will win the presidency. Investigative journalist Robert Parry has said, "So, if Clinton’s eventual nomination is inevitable, the Democrats will be putting up a candidate who is broadly disliked by the American people. That means a Clinton candidacy will require massive spending on negative ads to make the Republican candidate so frightening in the eyes of most Americans that they will vote for Clinton out of fear, not hope."      

I say, don't give in to fear, and don't vote for someone who is backed by so many people who have worked so diligently to rig the economy, and the criminal justice system, in their favor. If that means a Republican president, so be it. As FDR said, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." And so, during what will be, admittedly, dark years, we should leave the Democratic Party and create a truly progressive party (and, let's be honest, for millions of us, these are already dark years - we can take a little more).

Finally, to reemphasize my main point, remember that the Democratic Establishment has lost 1,000 federal and state political offices as they've gotten in bed with Wall Street and told the rest of us to be "practical." Do you really think that's a winning strategy?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Conservative Noise Machine smears Clinton; the Clinton Noise Machine shuts out the public; and the Sanders Noise Machine asks for a New Deal

Statues of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (in his wheelchair) and his dog Fala at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Above: A statue of President Roosevelt at the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC. Roosevelt surrounded himself with progressives and fighters, like Harry Hopkins, Harold Ickes, Mary Dewson, and Marriner Eccles. If Hillary Clinton becomes president, we can be sure that she will follow Obama's practice of appointing and nominating Wall Street insiders and Wall Street apologists into positions of power. That's how the 1% maintain their wealth, and prevent everyone else from escaping stagnant wages, debt, and homelessness. Photo courtesy of Carol Highsmith and the Library of Congress.

A few weeks ago, Mother Jones journalist Kevin Drum said millennial and progressive voters have been manipulated into distrusting Hillary Clinton by the political right. He claimed that their distrust is "the ultimate proof of how the right wing's big lie about the Clintons has successfully poisoned not just the electorate in general, but even the progressive movement itself." He concluded by writing: "But the truth is that regardless of how she sometimes sounds, her record is pretty clear: Hillary Clinton really is fundamentally honest and trustworthy. Don't let the conservative noise machine persuade you otherwise."

Okay, Mr. Drum, we won't let the conservative noise machine persuade us otherwise. We'll just let Hillary Clinton's record persuade us otherwise- a record she's been apologizing for quite a bit lately.

Drum feels that right-wing inflated scandals, like Whitewater, Troopergate, and Benghazi are turning millennials and progressives against Clinton. But I suspect that most millennials and progressives are less concerned about those things than they are about her militarism, her vote to make bankruptcy more difficult for struggling Americans, and the campaign cash she receives from financial fraudsters on Wall Street. I suspect that they find her untrustworthy because she won't release the transcripts of what she told her buddies at Goldman Sachs - an institution that has frequently engaged in financial wrongdoing.

What's really ironic about Drum's concern about the "conservative noise machine," is that Clinton actually used a real noise machine to prevent the public from hearing what she told her wealthy donors in Colorado. Most of us heard the original story, and now an attendee of the event has apparently verified Clinton's use of the sound machine: "I can confirm without any doubt that there was a white noise machine set up on the perimeter to prevent the public and reporters from hearing what Hillary Clinton said" (emphasis added). The attendee goes on to say that Clinton didn't say anything newsworthy, but her noise machine "seemed to underscore the exclusivity of the event. I thought it was really surprising." Of course, whether she said anything newsworthy is in the ear of the beholder.

As conservatives use their noise machine to smear Clinton, and Clinton uses her noise machine to separate herself & her wealthy donors from the middle-class & poor, Bernie Sanders' supporters are using their noise machine (their voices, words, and $27 donations) to ask for a New Deal: A deal where wealthy lawbreakers are held accountable just like non-wealthy lawbreakers; a deal where politicians are not beholden to big money and don't make policies to please them; a deal where millionaires & billionaires pay more taxes, instead of hiding their money in offshore accounts with the assistance of the politicians they are giving campaign cash to; a deal where America's infrastructure is given higher priority than military adventures in the Middle East; a deal where Wall Street insiders are not appointed to government positions where they can enforce the status quo of extreme income & wealth inequality.

Which noise machine do you like best?

Monday, April 18, 2016

No dark money here: I just gave $27 to Bernie Sanders, to fight the plutocratic policies of Hillary Clinton and her fellow right-wing candidates for president

(Bernie Sanders in Phoenix, Arizona, 2015. Sanders is the only progressive candidate for president. The rest are either right-leaning, or right-wing extremists. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, used here under the CCA-SA 2.0 Generic License.)

I just contributed $27 to the Bernie Sanders campaign, as I've done several times before. I feel no need to hide my donation, as so many do with their payments to Super PACs. Many (not all) super-wealthy Americans want to contribute large sums of money to politicians like Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, in support of their militaristic and anti-New Deal agendas, but they don't want Americans to know about it. They want to keep the deal secret. These super-wealthy donors don't want us to know that they're working hard to prevent middle and low-income Americans from getting a raise, and from getting relief from suffocating debt. They know that their luxurious, work-free lifestyles depend on the misery of others - and that their best bet to maintain this disgusting status quo is to get someone like Clinton or Cruz elected.    

I contributed $27 to Bernie Sanders because I believe, as he does, that the New Deal was superior to trickle-down economics. I contributed because I believe in democracy, not plutocracy. I contributed because I believe we should be devoting more money to domestic affairs (like replacing the water lines and plumbing fixtures that are poisoning millions of children across the United States), than to the hundreds of military bases across the globe that support our endless military adventures. I contributed because I believe it's wrong to let financial criminals avoid prison time because they're rich, because they can easily pay jail-avoiding fines, and because they have a history of giving cash to politicians (make no mistake about it, what we've witnessed these past many years is essentially a criminal protection racket, similar to when mobsters paid police officers to look the other way in exchange for a piece of the action).

Now, some say, "Oh, Hillary is a progressive!" I don't think so. Not when her infrastructure plan in dwarfed by Sanders' infrastructure plan, not when she hesitates on expanding Social Security, not when she says she won't restore Glass-Steagall to reduce the risk of bank fraud and bank gambling, and not when she votes to make bankruptcy more difficult for struggling Americans. With respect to the latter, what type of person does that? Someone who cares about the downtrodden? Or someone who doesn't give a rat's behind, but simply wants more Wall Street money? (They're the ones who paid her to change her stance on bankruptcy.) And if you think Clinton's bankruptcy vote is an anomaly, think again. As far as I know (and someone can correct me if I'm wrong), she's done nothing (and neither has the Democratic Establishment) to reverse the disastrous 2005 Bush-era bankruptcy "reforms" that have made it so difficult for Americans to escape perpetual debt (perpetual debt that no doubt enriches Clinton and her wealthy friends).    

Some will say, "Well, Clinton is better than Cruz, so you should support her if she's the nominee." I don't buy that anymore. Right-leaning Democrats like President Obama and Hillary Clinton are fueling right-wing extremism. The more they cave to the right, drift to the right, and compromise with the right, the more extreme the political right must become to differentiate themselves from Democrats. For example, Hillary Clinton's militaristic worldview forces Ted Cruz and Donald Trump to become more hawkish - Cruz has advocated for mass carpet bombing--collateral damage notwithstanding--and Trump has said we should target the families of terrorists. If Clinton ever supports indiscriminate carpet bombing, Republicans may have to push for the use of nuclear weapons to show that they're "tougher." In other words, the more we give in to the lesser-of-two-evils argument--"You better vote for Clinton, because the Republican candidate is even worse!"--the more we ensure that both sides become even more evil. It's a race to the bottom - where greed and hatred are virtues, and social responsibility is a sin. We should vote on substance, good judgment, and progressive values, not because one candidate is less hideous than the other. This means Sanders, not Clinton. 

So, yeah. I gave $27 to the Sanders Campaign. And I'll give again, as long as he has a shot to prevent the coronation of Queen Clinton, and the hoard of selfish Wall Street cronies that will line up outside the White House for their appointments and nominations to important government positions in the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Education, and anywhere else where they can protect their class, while punishing the rest of us.

(See Tony Brasunas' great op-ed on the Huffington Post, "There Is a Moderate Republican in This Race, But She's Running as a Democrat," April 18, 2016. And for an interesting take on President Obama's political style--as viewed by Bruce Bartlett, former top adviser to President Reagan--see "Obama is a Republican," The American Conservative," October 21, 2014.)  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

New Deal Art: "Spring Flowers"

Above: "Spring Flowers," an oil painting by Kathryne Hail Travis (1894-1972), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Deal Art: "Trysting at Evening"

Above: "Trysting at Evening," an oil painting by Josephine Joy (1869-1948), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Democratic Protection Racket: Hillary's money machine is protected from criminal prosecution... again

Above: Considering that she didn't support unions while she was a board member of Walmart; and considering her pro-Iraq War vote; and her support for free trade agreements that decimate American wages; and her vote to make bankruptcy more difficult for struggling Americans; and her hesitation to expand Social Security; and her dismissal of Bernie Sanders' bold progressive agenda as impractical, pie-in-the-sky dreaming; and the fact that she receives more campaign cash from Wall Street fraudsters than any other candidate, is Hillary Clinton really a candidate for the people, or a political puppet of Wall Street? My belief is that if Hillary becomes president she will try to help struggling Americans, but only to the point where it doesn't hurt the profits of her Wall Street donors. In other words, not much. Image from, used here with license.

Yesterday, we learned that Goldman Sachs, one of Hillary Clinton's prime supporters, reached a settlement to "pay" $5 billion for fraudulent activities that contributed to the Great Recession. Some of the money will go to consumer relief, some to the federal government, and some to particular states. 

$5 billion sounds like a lot, but it's likely far less than the profit derived from such fraudulent activities. After all, Goldman Sachs has assets creeping towards $1 trillion. What's $5 billion? And, of course, we know from past experience that, for a variety of reasons, they're not really going to pay $5 billion (see, e.g., "In Settlement's Fine Print, Goldman May Save $1 Billion," (a figure that doesn't include possible tax deductions associated with the settlement), New York Times, April 11, 2016). Further, we know that the Obama Administration will not pursue criminal charges (it rarely does for super-wealthy violators) because Goldman Sachs is a top cash contributor to himself and his preferred successor, Hillary Clinton (see, e.g., here and here). Not only is this protectionism a blatant quid pro quo, it sets a bad precedent, as the head of the pro-consumer group Public Citizen observed:

"The Department of Justice says this settlement will hold Goldman Sachs accountable. Unfortunately, that’s not so. Without criminal prosecution there's not even the illusion of accountability. This settlement, like others involving Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street perpetrators of the wrongdoing that led to the Great Recession, does virtually nothing to advance the objectives of deterrence, punishment or compensation for victims. The real message is, whether due to size, complexity or privileged access to politicians, Goldman Sachs and Wall Street remain above the law."

For me, the worst part about all of the above, is that millions of Americans are going along with it, eagerly choosing Clinton and her Wall Street backers over Bernie Sanders - thereby assuring that financial fraud, white collar crime, and job insecurity will continue for the next 4-8 years. Like Obama, Clinton will bring into her administration Wall Street insiders, who will work hard to maintain the status quo of extreme income & wealth inequality - thereby keep themselves wealthy, but the rest of us in suffocating debt.

Of course, not everyone is going along with the fraud protection racket that's been set up by our political and business elites (campaign money in exchange for soft-on-corporate-crime policies). For example, five hundred people were arrested yesterday in Washington, D.C., for promoting true democracy. Yes, you can defraud the American people on a massive scale and avoid jail. But promote real democracy? "Oh no no no, we can't have that! You're getting pepper sprayed, tackled, handcuffed, and thrown in a cell!! Lawbreaker!!!"

So, here's the choice: Hillary and her Wall Street fraudster agenda, or Bernie and his New Deal agenda. I have absolutely no faith that the American people will choose the latter, but I pray I'm wrong.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

As Hillary Clinton caters to the wealthy and shuts the public out with a noise machine, Bernie Sanders brings aboard a tough-on-crime bank regulator

(Ferdinand Pecora, at left, 1937. Roosevelt and his fellow New Deal policymakers had no problem bringing aboard people who would be tough on white collar crime. After exposing the greed and fraud of Wall Street in the early 1930s, Pecora was made a commissioner of the newly-created Securities and Exchange Commission. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

At a recent outdoor event to raise funds from the wealthy, Hillary Clinton and her team apparently turned on a noise machine to block the press (and therefore, the public) from hearing her speech. We'll probably never know what she said but, like her secret speeches to Goldman Sachs, she almost certainly assured her wealthy backers (either directly or tacitly) that she wouldn't raise their taxes, wouldn't regulate their financial behavior, and wouldn't hold them accountable for fraud, tax evasion, or a little cooking the books here and there. She almost certainly praised their "entrepreneurship" and their role as "job creators" (even as worker wages have stagnated for decades). 

Meanwhile, as Hillary was blocking out the public (which is a precursor to how she will govern if she's elected president), the Bernie Sanders campaign brought aboard William Black, a former bank regulator, a current professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas, and the man who helped expose the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980s.

Hillary would never hire or appoint someone like Black, of course, because she's beholden to Corporate America. By taking millions of their dollars she's effectively swore an oath of allegiance to them. And that oath goes something like this: "If I become president, I swear to always hold your interests above everyone else's interest. I promise to obfuscate the national dialogue when you swindle the public. I promise to defend your greed to the best of my ability." In other words, Hillary will continue the tradition of President Obama. As Black has noted, Obama took loads of Wall Street money and failed to rein in corporate wrongdoers:

"the Obama administration has not taken any fundamental action to end the corrupt culture of Wall Street. It has not prosecuted.  It has not forced the systemically dangerous institutions that pose global systemic risks to shrink to the point that they no longer pose a global systemic risk.  It has not fundamentally changed executive and professional compensation even though they are intensely criminogenic. Obama has appointed a series of weak regulatory leaders. Yes, Dodd-Frank allowed Obama and his regulators to take more effective actions. But Obama and those he appointed have lacked the will to even try to make fundamental changes and restore the rule of law to Wall Street. Wall Street remains rigged and its central business strategy remains fraud and ripping off its customers."

Black also noted the observations of a colleague: "Tom predicted that Obama would win the nomination and the election – and would reject emulating President Roosevelt’s 'New Deal' and its transformation of finance. All three predictions proved accurate" (emphasis added).

So, there's your choice America: A candidate who will shut you out with a noise machine, pamper the wealthy, and appoint and nominate Wall Street insiders to important positions of power; or, a candidate who talks the talk and walks the walk. How you decide has important implications with respect to issues like wealth inequality, child homelessness, wage stagnation, crumbling infrastructure, student loan debt, white collar crime, perpetual war, etc. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Clinton Campaign and the Democratic Party: A tale of dark money, laundered campaign cash, and a rigged nomination process. We should not support this.

What's wrong with this picture?

(Image from Huffington Post, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.)

And what's wrong with this picture?

(Image from Huffington Post, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.)

The people of Wyoming and New York have not even begun voting for their preferred presidential nominee, and yet Clinton already holds a 4 delegate lead in Wyoming and a 34 delegate lead in New York. In fact, Sanders has no delegates at all. And this is because of the superdelegate system that the (Un-)Democratic Party has instituted these past many decades. 

In New Hampshire, where Bernie Sanders won 60.4% of the vote and Hillary won 38%, they each walked away with 15 delegates (!). Now, the talking heads will give you all sorts of reasons and rationale for why this should be so, but Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the Democratic National Committee (the lady who receives campaign cash from loan sharks to protect them from regulatory oversight), stated very clearly why the superdelegate system exists: "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."  

Not only a rigged delegate system, but laundered campaign cash too.

Above: In the video above, Cenk Uygar of the Young Turks explains how Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, and their millionaire & billionaire donors, set up a Hillary Victory Fund and used tricky ways to increase the amount of money that the Clinton Campaign received, to tilt the table against Sanders. Original YouTube link:

Dark, Organized Money

The Center for Public Integrity published a story yesterday that described, in great detail, how Hillary Clinton is using the dreaded Citizens United ruling (as well as the subsequent, even worse ruling - McCutcheon) to accumulate a great amount of dark money through her Super-PACs. This dark, organized money is usually impossible to trace to the donor. But, let's be real, much of it's coming from her buddies on Wall Street - the people who want to make sure they're not held accountable the next time they want to run a fraud on the American people. These donors don't want to be identified for the same reason Hillary Clinton doesn't want to release the transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches: It would uncover the greedy motives of the cabal of politicians and businessmen who rig the economy, and our political process, for their financial gain - and our financial misery.

Now, Hillary and her supporters say: "Hey, don't you worry one bit!  Once she's in office, she's going to crack down on that corrupt connection between organized money and politics! She's just participating in it now so she can get elected." This is the same gobbledygook we heard from Obama and his supporters but, once in office, Obama did nothing of substance to disengage organized money from the political system. In fact, he invited all sorts of Wall Street insiders into his administration so that they could maintain the status quo of extreme income & wealth inequality. If you want to believe that Hillary will suddenly change gears once in office and frown on all the money that was thrown at her, that's your business. But I agree with Cenk Uygar when he says: "I bet my bottom dollar Hillary Clinton will do absolutely nothing to change the system. If you believe her, you’re a sucker."

Roosevelt's Opinion On Organized Money

(President Roosevelt, 1941. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

Franklin Roosevelt certainly had wealthy backers, and he came from a wealthy family. And while I'm not an expert on the history of campaign finance laws, I do know that FDR began to move us away from a government that catered to the rich. For example, he and his fellow policymakers constantly pushed for higher taxes on the wealthy, created the Securities and Exchange Commission to police their stock market behavior, and provided all sorts of assistance to struggling Americans - assistance that most Democrats today wouldn't dream of trying. For example, New Deal policymakers created the WPA, which hired 8.5 million jobless Americans between 1935 and 1943. Most Democrats today would not attempt the same--indeed, would never even utter approval of the idea--because they know that their super-wealthy campaign contributors, by and large, would prefer jobless Americans to remain unemployed than to receive public works jobs (See "Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans," p. 57, table 5).

Roosevelt warned Americans many times about the dangers of organized money in politics, government, and life generally. In his first inaugural address, in 1933, he said: "Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit." During a speech at Madison Square Garden, in 1936, he declared that "Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob." And in his second inaugural address, in 1937, FDR said "we have begun to bring private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public’s government. The legend that they were invincible--above and beyond the processes of a democracy--has been shattered. They have been challenged and beaten."

Today, the autocrats and plutocrats have risen again. The Democratic Elite, and their wealthy backers, think that they are above and beyond the processes of a democracy--which is why you are seeing a rigged delegate system, laundered campaign cash, and a Democratic Establishment eagerly participating in the dark money game that Citizens United opened up. We should not support these people. We should challenge and beat them, by supporting Sanders - as well as any other politician who sincerely wants to rid our government of the corrupting influence of organized money. We should turn against the Democratic Establishment, just as they have turned against us.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

New Deal Art: Wharf Markets of Monterey, California

Above: "Wharf Markets," an egg tempera on paperboard by artist Victor Hugo Basinet (1889-1956), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. The painting shows a scene in Monterey, California. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Reverse New Deal: The political establishment scolds America's youth and turns them into debt slaves for Corporate America's utilization

(Statue of Eleanor Roosevelt in Washington, DC. Photo by Carol Highsmith, provided courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Scolding America's Youth And Keeping Them In Debt 

In a recent op-ed on the Huffington Post, Linda Bergthold, a health policy consultant, questioned the wisdom of Bernie Sanders' younger supporters: "Perhaps younger people don’t realize the damage that a conservative state legislature can do to all of the proposals Sanders so strongly supports... If Senator Sanders does not win the Democratic nomination, what will be his response and the response of his supporters? Will they pout or refuse to vote for Hillary or will they roll up their sleeves and transfer their considerable energy to making change happen from the ground up?" ("To Bernie Sanders Supporters From Someone Bernie's Age," Huffington Post, April 4, 2016, emphasis added).

In another recent op-ed on the Huffington Post, Dr. Ruth Nemzoff of Brandeis University also scoffed at young Americans supporting Sanders. In explaining how her support for Clinton is superior to young Americans' support for Sanders, she writes: "Guess maybe I have become an old fuddy duddy, but you won’t find me sitting around allowing simple answers (fantasies) to rule" ("Bernie Is Nice Enough But Hillary Is The One Who Can Govern!" Huffington Post, February 23, 2016, emphasis added).

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright famously said, "Young women have to support Hillary Clinton... And just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other."

The above instances are just a few examples where (supposed) liberals, Democrats, and progressives have scolded America's youth for not voting the right way, not thinking clearly, and dreaming too much.

And, of course, right-wingers are trying to discourage youth from voting for Sanders as well. Tom Rogan, who rights for the National Review and is a fellow at the Steamboat Institute (an institute that praises "rugged individualism"), writes: "There is only one reason for younger Americans to vote for Bernie Sanders - if, instead of happiness, they live for the pursuit of personal and national pain" ("Dear Young Americans: Don't Vote For Bernie," Opportunity Lives, February 5, 2016).

Rogan argues that if Sanders becomes president, his "economic policies would submit younger Americans to a future of ever-higher taxes and ever-fewer job opportunities," that "Sanders would bury young Americans in debt," and that Sanders' "[foreign policy] plans would gut the military and corrode its ability to defend America’s interests abroad." What Rogan leaves out, of course, is that younger Americans--over the past 30-40 years--have already been dealing with crappier and crappier job opportunities and more and more debt. Also, with respect to the military, maybe younger Americans don't agree with America's new policy of perpetual war? Clearly, Rogan has been living in a cave for the past few decades and is unaware of what younger Americans have been struggling with. To tell young Americans, "Oh, you better not vote for Sanders - he'll put you in debt!" when young Americans are already burdened with over a trillion dollars in student loan debt is one of the most idiotic warnings I've ever heard in my life.

In addition to discouraging youth from voting for a candidate whose ideas energize them, and whose bold agenda motivates them to participate more in the political process, the political establishment is also working hard to keep them in debt. For example, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, with the president's blessing, openly supports loan sharks (after receiving campaign cash from them), and President Obama's Department of Education "has misled the public about alleged fraud at major student loan contractor Navient. It has refused to punish schools that violate state and federal rules. It has dragged its feet on providing debt relief to students from the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges, even after federal judge ruled that the school scammed more than 100,000 students" ("How The Democratic Elite Betrayed Their Party And Paved The Way For Donald Trump," Huffington Post, March 23, 2016). 

As for Hillary Clinton, I've heard nothing from her regarding debt-relief that I find interesting or inspiring. And let's be real, we know that Hillary can't help young Americans too much without pissing off her super-wealthy backers (i.e., those Americans who profit by turning America's youth into debt slaves).

The New Deal: Engaging America's Youth

Instead of scolding young Americans, New Deal policymakers hired millions of them into the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the National Youth Administration (NYA). In establishing the NYA, President Roosevelt said: "I have determined that we shall do something for the Nation's unemployed youth because we can ill afford to lose the skill and energy of these young men and women." 

In 1934, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote: "I have moments of real terror, when I think we may be losing this generation. We have to bring these young people into the active life of the community and make them feel that they are necessary." Turning her concern into concrete action, Eleanor helped shape the development and expansion of the NYA. Aubrey Williams, the administrator of the NYA, recalled: "One of the NYA's ablest and wisest friends was Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt... Her unfailing interest, her deep and sympathetic understanding of the problems of youth, and her endless courage were a source of great strength and guidance to the NYA, to the youth on its program, and to the youth of America." (Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years 1936-1943, 1944 p. viii).   

Today, there is no CCC or NYA. But there are routine scoldings for the young men and women who are voting for Sanders and refusing to support Clinton and her Wall Street plutocrats. The elite intelligentsia and op-ed writers who scold them seem to collectively say, "How dare you not support neoliberalism! How dare you protest your dropping wages and rising debt!!" 

Yes, things have changed a lot since the New Deal.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Bernie or Bust? Yes! We want a New Deal, not more white collar crime and plutocracy (even if that crime and plutocracy comes with a teaspoon of sugar)

Above: FDR and his fellow New Deal policymakers offered bold programs for a nation in need, for example, public jobs in the CCC and WPA. And they reined in Wall Street by creating Glass-Steagall and the SEC. Bernie Sanders will try to carry on this tradition. Hillary Clinton will not. She will, instead (as Obama has done), hire and appoint Wall Street insiders to important government positions, where they can maintain the plutocratic status quo. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The talking heads and the elite opinion-writers have been getting angrier and angrier at Bernie Sanders and his supporters, essentially telling them, "Alright, alright! It's time to cut out this nonsense! Stop being immature and start backing Clinton and her crooked funders!"

Charles Blow, in the New York Times, recently scolded Susan Sarandon for hesitating to say whether she would cast a vote for Hillary Clinton if Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee. Further, he warns progressives (after implying that some of them are just absolutely bonkers) that they had better cast a vote for the lesser of two evils: "Elections are about choices, not always between a dream candidate and a dreaded one, but sometimes between common sense and catastrophe. Progressives had better remember this come November, no matter who the Democratic nominee is." This, of course, is the lesser-of-two-evils threat that is always put out there to scare progressives into voting Republican-light (and if we don't ignore it, they'll just keep threatening us with it, every four years, for the rest of our lives).

Paul Krugman, who has been campaigning for Hillary for months now, agrees with Blow, basically telling Sanders and his supporters, "Hey little kids, time to grow up now. Time to support Clinton and her corporate crooks. Time to stop criticizing them." He writes, dismissively: "For Sanders campaign staff, and also for anyone who has been backing his insurgency, it’s been one heck of a ride, and they would understandably like it to go on as long as possible. But we’ve now reached the point where what’s fun for the campaign isn’t at all the same as what’s good for America." (As if plutocracy and continued financial fraud is.)

To the Democratic Elite (like Krugman), Sanders' supporters (like me) are simply doing this for "fun." You know, like children flicking water at each other in a swimming pool. What they don't understand, is that we are sick and tired of white collar criminals, plutocracy, trade deals that stagnate our wages, and a Democratic Establishment that protects loan sharks and puts Wall Street cronies in important government positions - so that our rigged economy stays rigged. They just can't fathom why we're not willing to support another Wall Street-backed candidate, even after Wall Street has destroyed our finances, put us in insurmountable debt, and put our future in jeopardy with perpetual fraud and insatiable greed.

To the Democratic Establishment: If the best you can do, after years and years of record-setting Wall Street fraud, is a Wall Street-backed candidate, then it is you who are bonkers. You see, some of us are willing to fight to the bitter end, even if that end puts us in greater misery. Because, and this may seem alien to you, we feel that some things are worth fighting for, for example, democracy, truth, and a just economy. And if we can't get those things, then yes, let the whole morally rotted system collapse in on itself.

Bernie or Bust? Yes! We want a New Deal, not more white collar crime and plutocracy (yes Democratic Establishment, even if you deliver that crime and plutocracy to us with a teaspoon of sugar).

Friday, April 1, 2016

New Deal Art: "Mirror Pool"

Above: "Mirror Pool," an oil and graphite painting by Vincent Canade (1879-1961), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1936. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.