Inequality Means No Center to Moderate Toward

Moderation is the issue at the moment, specifically now that politicians have been the target of violence. That is always a surefire way of getting the attention of the political class and the corporate media that obsesses over them.

A single politician shot is more concerning to the mainstream than millions of poor people harmed by the policies of politicians. Worse still is multiple politicians attacked simultaneously — it is a national tragedy, worse than decades of hate crimes and generations of institutional racism, worse than overthrowing numerous democratic governments and committing state terrorism.

Such is the way of the world, at least in a society like this. But it would be nice if some worthy public debate were made possible, even if only briefly. Maybe we shouldn’t wait until the next act of mass violence before dealing with issues of substance. The politics of spectacle is great for campaigns and corporate media profits. It’s not so great for democracy, though. Citizens shooting politicians could be seen as an indicator of failed democracy. Other indicators to be considered are politicians sending citizens off to fight immoral wars of aggression to kill innocent foreigners for reasons of geopolitics and police officers violently targeting innocent citizens for reasons of authoritarian social control.

When the government seeks to solve its problems through violence, it sets the example for its citizens that problems are solved through violence. Some might argue that is not the most optimal of results for a civil society.

* * *

Despite the shallow concerns of the comfortable classes temporarily made to feel uncomfortable, no one doubts that the problems of extremism are very much real. At the Eat Pray Vote blog, Lauren Wynn writes about political moderation (Fear and Loathing in American Politics: the Future of the Sane Center). She states that,

“It occurred to me that many of his assertions could be equally applied to both sides of the aisle — right and left, Republican and Democrat were interchangeable. Crazy concept, huh? If everyone is being this reactionary – which conversations with and observations of both sides indicate might be true – then is a middle ground even possible?”

Many Americans would agree with her, myself included. I’ve seen a number of articles like this, from diverse perspectives and yet with similar questions. I would point out that an increasing proportion of the public dislikes both parties, as there are now more independents than partisans in either major party. After all, we just had a presidential election where the two main candidates were the least popular of any major presidential candidates since polling data has been kept. And following the election, both of them continue their decline into unpopularity, demonstrating that voters still despise the choice that the ruling establishment forced upon them.

Wynn does briefly and partly get to this issue. In discussing fear, she quotes from a NYT article by Emily Badger and Niraj Chokshi (How We Became Bitter Political Enemies):

“Independents, who outnumber members of either party and yet often lean toward one or the other, are just as guided by fear. More than half who lean toward either party say a major reason for their preference is the damage the other party could cause. Only about a third reported being attracted by the good that could come from the policies of the party toward which they lean.”

Fear. That is the most troubling part. To live in fear is not a happy state, especially when it forms the ground of society and the background of daily experience. Such a culture of fear doesn’t come out of nowhere. I’d argue that fear is more of a symptom than a cause, a symptom of a sick society. Speaking of a “Sane Center,” what is supposedly ‘sane’ in a society like this? I wouldn’t consider the majority of politicians, plutocrats, and pundits who dominate our society to be paragons of sanity, not in terms of either mental health or moral decency.

I noticed that the NYT article quoted Shanto Iyengar, a Stanford political scientist: “If you go back to the days of the Civil War, one can find cases in American political history where there was far more rancor and violence… But in the modern era, there are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ — partisan animus is at an all-time high.” That is an odd claim. American history is full of near endless “rancor and violence.” The late 19th to early 20th century was so full of conflict that there were violent labor conflicts and military-style race wars in the streets, while the government feared being overthrown such as by the Bonus Army camped out on the White House lawn. I find myself in a near constant state of amazement at the historical amnesia of Americans, even among the the well-educated. No matter how bad problems are right now, they don’t compare even slightly to numerous other periods in US history.

Anyway, being critical of the culture of fear, I’m strongly supportive of a “Sane Center.” But it depends on what is meant by that. If sanity means being well-adjusted, then what is being adjusted to? Such things are always relative, specifically in terms of left vs right. Context is everything.

We should consider the origins of the left-right divide. The right side has for millennia been associated with power and authority, tradition and the status quo. That is why Jesus was described as sitting to the right of God. And that is why, under the French monarchy, aristocrats and clergy supporting the monarchy sat on the right side of the assembly. Even once the king was deposed, the French assembly maintained this seating with the most radical revolutionaries sitting to the left.

About the French Revolution, it’s interesting to compare it to the American Revolution. Some of the American founders gave primary credit to Thomas Paine for the American Revolution or at least in lending much inspiration toward its success. Paine was as radical as they come, in many ways far to the left of present Democrats (e.g., basic income).

Yet guess where he was seated as an honorary member of the French assembly. He sat on the right side with his moderate allies, as under that context he was a moderate who argued for not beheading the king and for passing a democratic constitution, the whole issue of a democratic rule of law and democratic procedure. He was more radically liberal than were the radical revolutionaries, but this radical liberalism is precisely what made him moderate. It was those radical or rather reactionary revolutionaries, when they gained control, who sentenced Paine to death and he narrowly escaped that fate.

As always, the issues is to the right or left of what? Paine was trying to hold the “Sane Center” in an insane world. Even the American Revolution was far more violent and bloody than is typically acknowledged,. It was a time when wealth and power ruled brutally and it was no easy task for the oppressed to stand up to that injustice, both on the right and the left. Interestingly, during such revolutions, aristocrats and plutocrats are found on both sides of the fight. The French Revolution was initiated with the help of many aristocrats and clergy who were tired of oppressive monarchy. And the same was true of the American Revolution.

Paine was an Anti-Federalist, the ideological group that supported democracy as opposed to centralized power. The Anti-Federalists considered themselves to be the real Federalists because they actually wanted a Confederation of states, as was agreed upon under the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation (the second constitution, ironically, was unconstitutional and passed unconstitutionally according to the first constitution). Because of the second constitution, most US citizens lost power and representation with only a few percentage having the right to either vote or run for office. When the revolution continued under the new government by those demanding the democracy they had fought for, the aristocrat Washington put an army together and violently put down those dreams of democracy.

The US isn’t a country that was founded on a “Sane Center.” That isn’t the kind of country it is. But it is a country that was inspired by democracy and genuine democracy is as radical today as it was in Paine’s lifetime. As Jimmy Carter has observed, the US is a banana republic and was that way before Trump came to power. Research has confirmed this in showing that we don’t have a functioning representative government, as politicians most of the time do what the wealthy want them to do and not what the middle-to-lower classes want them to do (this was analyzed in comparing public policy and public opinion). Still, we are an aspiring democracy and such aspirations shouldn’t be dismissed.

That is the context. And that leads me to the specifics of this article. It was written that,

“During the 2016 Presidential election, deep fissures appeared in both the Democrat and Republican parties. The Democrats were divided between a far-left candidate in Bernie Sanders and a more traditional Democrat in Hillary Clinton. Likewise, Republicans were divided among far-right candidates, traditional Republicans and a complete outlier — Donald Trump.”

Let me first question the claim about what is traditional. What is the comparison being made? Bernie Sanders positions are well within the range of standard policies of FDR’s New Deal. Some consider FDR to be a traditional Democrat and, if so, it should be noted that Clinton’s positions make it clear that she is to the right of FDR.

We also know that the majority of Americans presently agree with many of Sanders’ positions, as polling and surveys show that most Americans are to the left of both main political parties. So, in what sense is Sanders a “far-left candidate?” Sure, he is to the left of the political center in Washington and in corporate media. But the political center in Washington and in corporate media is to the right of the American public. If we are to use the American public as the measure of the center, then that would mean Sanders is a centrist and all the major candidates are to the right of that center.

There is more than one ‘center’ to choose from. It depends on which part of society one identifies with. As someone who agrees with majority public opinion on many issues, I personally prefer to use the known data about public opinion as the defining standard of the political center. But I realize others would prefer a different center, as they don’t want a “government of the people, for the people and by the people.” I do want such a government, as did Paine, but also as did Republicans once upon a time as those words were spoken by the first Republican president.

That gets us to confusion of what goes for traditional in the GOP. As one scholar made clear, the Republican Party has from the beginning swung between the extremes of populism and plutocracy, somehow melding the two poles at the moment with Trump. At present, it’s hard to imagine Republicans doing something as radical as abolishing slavery like Lincoln, breaking up monopolies like Roosevelt, calling out the Military-Industrial Complex like Eisenhower, or simply creating the EPA like Nixon (it’s amazing how liberal Nixon looks these days, more liberal than many Democrats right now).

It hasn’t just been the GOP pushing right for decades. The Clinton New Democrats sought to triangulate by also pushing right. This is how both parties became uncentered or rather created their own center, quite contrary to the silenced majority. Where is the sanity in this? Why do we allow corporatist parties and big biz media tell us what is the Sane Center? They aren’t in the moral position to be telling anyone much of anything. Rather, those in the so-called ‘mainstream’ are the problem.

“Moderatism seemed to have all but disappeared over the past several decades with progressivism’s constant march to the left and conservatism’s to the right, but following the election, people from both sides began discussing a path forward that would help heal the gaping wound of division in our country.”

In that light, what is moderation as an ideological goal, this so-called moderatism? That is to say, what is being moderated between and to what end? Obviously, what goes for moderation in ‘mainstream’ politics isn’t moderating toward the center of public opinion of citizens and eligible voters. When both parties are immoderate, when the corporate media is immoderate, when public intellectuals are immoderate, how is the disempowered and sometimes overtly disenfranchised public supposed to seek out moderation? Does ‘moderate’ have any meaning when the most publicly centrist and most popular candidate in the country, Bernie Sanders, is called a radical left-winger by the minority in the comfortable classes?

This has a way of making many average Americans start feeling a bit radical. Maybe at times like these radicalism is the last refuge of the “Sane Center.”

* * *

One of the similar articles I’ve come across is by Peggy Noonan, a WSJ piece (Rage Is All the Rage, and It’s Dangerous).

For a mainstream media hack, her writing is more tolerable than that of many others, but this particular one didn’t do much for me. It’s more false equivalence. As I regularly make clear, I’m no fan of Democrats. Still, we should be honest enough to admit that the GOP and its supporters, especially pundits on talk radio and Fox News, have been inciting violence for decades (e.g., repeatedly calling Dr. Tiller a “baby killer” on one of the most popular right-wing shows until an audience member murdered him).

That said, the entire country at the moment is feeling pressure and the situation isn’t primarily ideological in nature. Even a moderate mainstream politician and former president like Jimmy Carter openly states that the US is a banana republic, which is to say that partisan animosity is the least of our worries. This is at a time after decades of worsening inequality (a defining feature of banana republics), something that research has proven worsens social problems in general and violence most of all. Republicans have been pushing the gospel of inequality for as long as they’ve been pushing violent rhetoric, and it has been a useful political strategy. For that reason, those in the Democratic Party seeking greater power within this banana republic have copied GOP strategies and also pushed right.

Nonetheless, we live in a far more peaceful era, compared to the past. The 1960s to 1980s was extremely violent, across the political spectrum (economic and political problems did contribute, although the worsening rates of lead toxicity of post-war industrialization and mass car culture played a larger role). And the first several decades of last century were even more violent, that having been the era of bomb-throwing anarchists, the terrorist Klan, and large-scale organized crime.

Ideology, at times, has been a more central concern. And it does help us understand how we got to this point. There is research that shows that violence always gets worse under Republican administrations, at least for as long as data has been kept. Right-wing and reactionary ideology worsens social conditions because of what it promotes. But once a society gets pushed toward instability, ideology itself is no longer the motivating factor. Ideology simply creates the conditions for violence to play out for other reasons, typically more personal motivations.

The guy who shot those Republicans probably didn’t do so for ideology, no more than the increasing hate crimes from the political right are intended as a political strategy. Most people aren’t overtly ideological in having clear and consistent ideological principles, even as they get caught up in the ideological rhetoric fanning the flames. Many Americans are simply feeling desperate, distressed, outraged, and much else. As research shows, high inequality doesn’t increase the probability of either kind behavior or intelligent choices. Only after bad conditions and bad feelings hit a breaking point does ideology typically follow as a way of ranting or rationalizing.

Ideology might offer an outlet for one’s feelings and give form to one’s voice, but ideology plays more of a role on the societal level than on the individual level. That is true until social conditions get so bad that people start organizing terrorist groups that regularly blow up buildings, assassinate people, etc. We haven’t quite gotten to that point yet. Even then, few if any join a terrorist group because of ideology, although there is no doubt that ideology helps to create and cement a new social identity, including social identities people are willing to die for.

Our concern about ideology, first and foremost, should be the neoliberalism and neoconservatism that forms the harmful social conditions and so makes violent consequences inevitable. Once we are at the point of people committing mass violence, talk about ideology is largely moot. We need to push it back a step to see where it originated.

* * *

Related to those articles, I was reading Keith Payne’s The Broken Ladder. It was published this year. Although far from perfect, I hope it gets a wide reading by the public and gains some traction in the media.

It is a useful book because his analysis of inequality is primarily through a lens of social science, rather than economics or politics. The author explains in great detail the real world impact inequality has on people in all aspects of their lives. The basic point was made many years ago in The Spirit Level by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, but Payne takes it a step further in showing the immense amount of research that has accumulated and showing how all the research connects to form a larger understanding.

The case against inequality goes far beyond a mere moral plea for justice and fairness. Inequality makes everything more dysfunctional. This is seen most clearly in diverse social problems, but there are larger consequences starkly shown in the political sphere. If a divided country is what is wanted, there are few more effective ways to divide a population than through inequality (pp. 110-111):

“Political scientist Nolan McCarty and his colleagues have also traced political divisions over the last century in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, formulating a measure of polarization based on how lawmakers vote, similar to the data used for Andris’s graphs. The polarization index is at its highest when all Democrats vote one way and all Republicans vote the other. Using this index, they calculated how polarized American politics has been in every Congress since 1947. Figure 4.5 shows that polarization in the House of Representatives and the Gini index of inequality have followed strikingly similar trajectories. Results for the Senate are similar. Both inequality and polarization were relatively low through the 1950s and 1960s. They then began rising in tandem in the mid-1970s and have remained on par ever since.”

There is one point that has long stood out to me, as seen with inequality research. It isn’t limited to the problems affecting the lower classes. Even the plutocrats become divided in conflict. That is what results when inequality becomes so entrenched that it forms into a widespread culture of mistrust, anxiety, and fear. This is seen in comparing countries which many earlier books on the topic have discussed. Even the wealthiest are worse off in a high inequality society than they are in a low inequality society. Inequality increases stress-related illnesses, violent crime, and political corruption. To live amidst inequality is to constantly feel on edge. No amount of wealth, power, and privilege can protect one from that sad state of affairs. No gated community can entirely isolate one from problems that tear apart the very social fabric that society depends upon.

Inequality is self-destructive. It has to be remedied if the worst possible consequences are to be avoided: economic collapse, government failure, inability to defend against foreign invasion, terrorism, military coup, civil war, revolution, or some combination of these. Simply devolving into an authoritarian police state and banana republic isn’t much of a better fate. But the point is that the experience of shittiness becomes pervasive even while the outward forms of civil society are maintained. It happens in ways that are hard to see from within a society because the problems become normalized according to the status quo and the ensuing epistemic closure shuts down our ability to imagine anything else. All that is experienced by most people is a general sense of worsening. They simply feel bad which leads to some combination of apathetic resignation and fearful scapegoating. This does not help to build a shared attitude of common good and cooperation, much less compassion and tolerance.

As inequality becomes a chasm dividing the public, the center literally disappears while the once large middle class shrinks. That center is what holds civil society together, what creates a sense of a shared social order (something explained by Aristotle more than a couple of millennia ago and also explained by Adam Smith more than a couple of centuries ago). Inequality turns people against one another. This can be seen in different areas of society, such as on an airplane where people are forced into close proximity. The socioeconomic status of passengers, real or perceived, represents a microcosm of the larger society (pp. 2-4):

“As they discovered, the odds of an air rage incident were almost four times higher in the coach section of a plane with a first-class cabin than in a plane that did not have one. Other factors mattered, too, like flight delays. But the presence of a first-class section raised the chances of a disturbance by the same amount as a nine-and-a-half-hour delay.

“To test the idea another way, the researchers looked at how the boarding process highlights status differences. Most planes with a first-class cabin board at the front, which forces the coach passengers to trudge down the aisle, dragging their baggage past the well-heeled and the already comfortably seated. But about 15 percent of flights board in the middle or at the back of the plane, which spares the coach passengers this gauntlet. As predicted, air rage was about twice as likely on flights that boarded at the front, raising the chances of an incident by the same amount as waiting out a six-hour delay.

“This air rage study is revealing, but not just because it illustrates how inequality drives wedges between the haves and the have-nots. What makes it fascinating to me is that incidents of rage take place even when there are no true have-nots on a flight. Since an average economy-class ticket costs several hundred dollars, few genuinely poor people can afford to travel on a modern commercial airplane. Yet even relative differences among the respectable middle-class people flying coach can create conflict and chaos. In fact, the chaos is not limited to coach: First-class flyers in the study were several times more likely to erupt in air rage when they were brought up close and personal with the rabble on front-loading planes. As Ivana Trump’s behavior can attest, when the level of inequality becomes too large to ignore, everyone starts acting strange.

“But they do not act strange in just any old way. Inequality affects our actions and our feelings in the same systematic, predictable fashion again and again. It makes us shortsighted and prone to risky behavior, willing to sacrifice a secure future for immediate gratification. It makes us more inclined to make self-defeating decisions. It makes us believe weird things, superstitiously clinging to the world as we want it to be rather than as it is. Inequality divides us, cleaving us into camps not only of income but also of ideology and race, eroding our trust in one another. It generates stress and makes us all less healthy and less happy.

“Picture a neighborhood full of people like the ones I’ve described above: shortsighted, irresponsible people making bad choices; mistrustful people segregated by race and by ideology; superstitious people who won’t listen to reason; people who turn to self-destructive habits as they cope with the stress and anxieties of their daily lives. These are the classic tropes of poverty and could serve as a stereotypical description of the population of any poor inner-city neighborhood or depressed rural trailer park. But as we will see in the chapters ahead, inequality can produce these tendencies even among the middle class and wealthy individuals.

“What is also notable about the air rage study is that it illustrates that inequality is not the same as poverty, although it can feel an awful lot like it. That phenomenon is the subject of this book. Inequality makes people feel poor and act poor, even when they’re not. Inequality so mimics poverty in our minds that the United States of America, the richest and most unequal of countries, has a lot of features that better resemble a developing nation than a superpower.”

* * *

For some historical context, Noam Chomsky is useful (“The Common Good”, The Sun magazine, November 1997):

“Aristotle took it for granted that a democracy would be fully participatory — with the notable exception of women and slaves — and would aim to promote the common good. But he argued that, in order to achieve its goal, the democracy would have to ensure “lasting prosperity to the poor” and “moderate and sufficient property” for everyone. If there were extremes of poor and rich, or if you didn’t have lasting prosperity for everyone, Aristotle thought, then you couldn’t talk seriously about having democracy.

“Another point Aristotle made was that if you have a perfect democracy, yet have big differences of wealth — a small number of very rich people and a large number of very poor — then the poor will use their democratic muscle to take away the property of the rich. He regarded this as unjust and offered two possible solutions. One was to reduce poverty. The other was to reduce democracy.

“A couple of thousand years later, when our Founding Fathers were writing the Constitution, James Madison noticed the same problem, but whereas Aristotle’s preferred solution had been to reduce poverty, Madison’s was to reduce democracy. He said quite explicitly in the Constitutional Convention that, if we had a true democracy, then the poor majority would use its power to demand what nowadays we would call agrarian reform, and that couldn’t be tolerated. The primary goal of government, in Madison’s words, is “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” He also pointed out that, as time went on, this problem was going to get worse, because a growing part of the population would suffer serious inequities and “secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of blessings.” He therefore designed a system that would ensure democracy didn’t function. As he put it, power would be in the hands of the “more capable set of men,” those who held “the wealth of the nation,” and the rest would be factionalized and marginalized in various ways.”

* * *

Here are some concluding thoughts. In this post, I resisted linking to any of my old posts. I’ve written about this kind of thing many times before, but I didn’t feel like dredging up prior commentary.

For the longest time, I identified as a liberal and it is still hard for me to shake that identity, even as I’ve seen the problems with it as a specifically American ideological category enmeshed in class politics, class privilege, and class warfare. The specific problem is that the liberal class which, because middle class professionals are found in academia and media, has come to dominate the rhetoric of liberalism within public debate.

My tendency is toward moderation. And I wish I lived in a moderate society. But I don’t. The reality is that the rhetoric of moderation is too often used in mainstream/corporatist politics to defend what is immoderate to the extreme, just as liberal rhetoric is wielded to prop up illiberal power structures. My concern, as always, is more about the reality than the rhetoric. Yet to deal with the reality requires understanding the rhetoric and how it is used. That further requires immense context to gain that understanding, context that few Americans are ever taught.

Inequality and class division makes for a stupid society. I mean that quite literally. It simply is not good for the highest levels of neurocognitive development and hence intellectual capacity. Inequality, similar to poverty, stunts normal development and this can be seen in brain scans. Long-term social and psychological stress accumulates into high rates of what essentially is trauma. An entire national population traumatized isn’t so talented at achieving a moderate civil society. People, under extreme duress and unhealthy conditions, tend to think and act stupidly and that stupidity gets magnified on the collective level.

This is why it is so heart-rending to speak of an idealized “Sane Center.” A common attribute of high inequality societies, specifically those dominated by the WEIRD demographic (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic), is that they have high rates of mental illness. It’s not just the poor having their brains fucked up from lead toxicity, although that is a major component with the combined effects of economic segregation and environmental racism. In the US, even the wealthy have higher rates of mental illness. There are poor communities around the world that, despite lacking healthcare and all the niceties of modernity, have very low or even seemingly non-existent rates of mental illness. The primary difference isn’t between poverty and wealth but between high inequality and low inequality. Of course, combining poverty with high inequality creates an even greater shit storm.

This is what gets me. Those demanding moderation are often the most privileged. They are people who too often think they are above it all and so look down upon all those other crazy people, such as the poor whites who are falsely blamed for Trump’s election. It is the comfortable classes, in their privilege and authority, who get to define what (and who) is ‘sane’ and ‘insane’, along with what is ‘centrist’ vs ‘extremist’ and ‘moderate’ vs ‘radical’. This even sometimes goes along with forms of gaslighting that make people feel insane — such as hearing politicians, pundits, and public intellectuals speak about the world in a way that doesn’t match the lived reality of most people in the world.

We don’t live in a sane and moderate country. Acknowledging that fact should be the starting point of any public discussion. The ‘center’ of a society gone mad is not where we should move toward, if the public good and functioning democracy is our aspiration.

* * *

6/26/17 – I originally wanted to avoid linking to old posts. But then I got in a debate. That person kept demanding evidence. I find that tiresome because, if someone wants info, they can find it. It’s not hard to find.

I guess I’ll make it even easier to find by offering some of that info gathered on my blog. Besides the following posts, I also shared a bunch of poling data and such down in the comments section. I don’t want to give anyone the opportunity to pretend this info doesn’t exist. Here it is:

US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism
The Court of Public Opinion: Part 1
Public Opinion on Tax Cuts for the Rich
Most Oppose Cutting Social Security (data)
Gun Violence & Regulation (Data, Analysis, Rhetoric)
Non-Identifying Environmentalists And Liberals
Environmentalist Majority
Public Opinion On Government & Tea Party
Warmongering Politicians & Progressive Public
Who Supported the Vietnam War?
Political Elites Disconnected From General Public
Wirthlin Effect & Symbolic Conservatism
Polarizing Effect of Perceived Polarization
Liberalism: Label vs Reality (analysis of data)
Sea Change of Public Opinion: Libertarianism, Progressivism & Socialism
Black and White and Re(a)d All Over
NPR: Liberal Bias?
Man vs Nature, Man vs Man: NPR, Parking Ramps, etc
The Establishement: NPR, Obama, Corporatism, Parties

65 thoughts on “Inequality Means No Center to Moderate Toward

  1. Here is a comment in response to what I wrote. And below it is my response in return.

    This shows the problem of political ignorance and historical amnesia. This comment directed at me came from an organization called Uniters Centrist.

    It’s ironic that someone identifying as a centrist who wants to unite has completely no clue where is the center of public opinion. Not only that but doesn’t seem to care to know. If such a person isn’t seeking to represent the views of the majority, who are they seeking to unite and around what center?

    Uniters Centrist wrote:

    “Bernie Sanders positions are well within the range of standard policies of FDR’s New Deal.”

    Incorrect. FDR and the New Deal is substantially to the right of the current system. Social Security was initially designed to pay out less than it does now, apply to far fewer people and FDR even intended to phase it out after the economy fully recovered.

    Put those facts together with a number of other positions – especially social – and no. there isnt an elected Demcorat in Washington that is to the right of FDR, or even in the same general ideological zone – and that’s a good thing.

    “We also know that the majority of Americans presently agree with many of Sanders’ positions, as polling and surveys show that most Americans are to the left of both main political parties.”

    Also incorrect. The agreement with Sanders is vague, like the idea of increasing taxes on the wealthy. The spectrum comes into play when you see how much people would be comfortable raising those taxes, and who they’d be applied to – obviously with more leftist types wanting more, and a spectrum on over to the center-right.
    There is a rather dramatic difference between the center, left and far left. It only looks the way you are mistakenly trying to characterize it with when you are looking at things as if they are simple binaries, or otherwise oversimplifying.

    “There is more than one ‘center’ to choose from. It depends on which part of society one identifies with.”
    The center / centrist means those who stand in the central area of a political spectrum – in a country, not subsections of society.

    Calling Bernie Sanders a centrist is a complete and utter joke. He wouldn’t even call himself that, and he’s a politician.

    If he were a centrist, then the GOP would win virtually no races and the Democrats and something in the vein of the Green Party would be the two major parties.

    If someone like him was in the center, then the Democratic Party would have been growing dramatically since it has pushed out nearly all moderates, whiile the progressive caucus has is now the second larges caucus in the party, and growing all at the same time that losing actual centrist and moderate voters correlates with Dems losing badly all over the country, against an eminently beatable Republican Party that wouldn’t even exist if what you’re saying made even a little bit of sense.

    I wrote:

    Once again, it depends on context.

    FDR New Deal Democrats were to the left of the Democrats before them. Now, in many ways (if we are to be honest), Clinton New Democrats are to the right of that with corporatist neoliberalism along with tough-on-crime and war hawk neoconservatism. But I’ve noted before that a moderate form of corporatism was promoted by FDR, although it was more social democratic than neoliberal.

    Your accusations of vagueness seem hilarious.

    The triangulation of the Clinton New Democrats was always intentionally vague in order to obscure its real nature. You can call that moderate if it makes you happy, but most Americans see it as bullshit. The fact of the matter is the majority agrees with Sanders and disagrees with Clinton. That majority isn’t a subsection. Or if you consider it to be a subsection, then you obviously don’t care about democracy.

    Maybe you should ask Jimmy Carter. He could explain to you why the US is now a banana republic. But no one can force you to acknowledge what you don’t want to know. Just realize that willful ignorance is not a pathway toward moderation and a “Sane Center.”

    • This is a useful example. This is exactly what I’m talking about. There are those claiming to represent the center without even knowing public opinion. That is fascinating. What other ‘center’ could such a person be talking about? Center of what? It really boggles my mind.

      In tweets, this person stated that:
      Why, the Roosevelt Elk of course! Native to US, named after a centrist independent Pres
      Hvnt had a moderate since Bill Clinton & last centrist was Ike.
      “[Clinton] isn’t far left, any more than she’s a centrist. She’s just a regular liberal, like most Dems.
      Sanders left wing dragging Dems down
      Not sure that’ll happen again, but maybe they’ll [Democrats] realize their mistake, break from far left, listen to the people again & and start winning.
      Amazing how leftists eat up Sanders’ classist & anti-corruption tweets, but ignore his materialistic behavior & his corrupt dark money group
      Predictably, Sanders is using the tour supposedly about party Dem unity to push his own narrow agenda
      Amazing how insanely out of touch w reality wingnuts can be. Just saw Sanders left winger say liberals are right wing economically.
      If all of Sanders’ #Healthcare plan passed (unlikely) it’d add $19 TRILLION to already exploding debt

      Sure, the neoliberalism and neoconservatism of the Clinton New Democrats is to the right of Sanders and to the left of the Koch brothers. But does someone like this honestly think that means it is in the center? Is the centrism being represented simply the center of the political establishment and the center of corporate media? Explain to me why that is worth defending.

      This person seems sincere. They really do believe they are in the center. But their entire notion of a center apparently has been defined according to mainstream partisan politics and corporate media. They think this ‘center’ is simply obvious, by which is meant that they’ve adopted centrist rhetoric from others without ever stopping to question what it actually means. It doesn’t seem to bother them that their ‘centrism’ is contrary to majority public opinion.

    • I don’t know why I get in these pointless online debates. I should have known better than to leave a comment at that blog post. I could tell what kind of ‘centrist’ view was being expressed in the main writing and comments.

      It’s not as if I was going to persuade anyone, even if wrote a factually detailed comment that supported every single claim with multiple citations. It just doesn’t work that way. Claims of centrism most of the time are just another form of dogmatic groupthink.

      Oh well. Maybe I’ll eventually learn the lesson of futility. I’m a slow learner.

    • I was looking at this article:

      It further clarified how far right the Democratic Party has become.

      Uniters Centrist claims that, “FDR and the New Deal is substantially to the right of the current system.” WTF! That is a total disconnection from reality. The New Deal was slowly dismantled with help of Democrats in order to replace it with right-wing neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

      Consider FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. It’s hard to imagine almost any Democrat advocating a political vision that radically leftist. Even Sanders, the most progressive voice being heard right now, sounds moderate compared to listening to FDR.

      I’ve never claimed FDR was perfect. He felt the need to include the support of racists to enact his New Deal. But then again, the Clinton New Democrats had even less excuse for their promoting racism so many decades later. FDR wasn’t a starry-eyed utopian. Even so, he didn’t pull his punches and he aimed high.

      The Second Bill of Rights is a list of rights that was proposed by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944.[1] In his address, Roosevelt suggested that the nation had come to recognize and should now implement, a second “bill of rights.” Roosevelt’s argument was that the “political rights” guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights had “proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.” His remedy was to declare an “economic bill of rights” to guarantee these specific rights:

      Employment, Food, clothing, and leisure with enough income to support them
      Farmers’ rights to a fair income
      Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
      Medical care
      Social security

      Roosevelt stated that having such rights would guarantee American security, and that the US’s place in the world depended upon how far the rights had been carried into practice.

    • Those like Uniters Centrist are in reality pseudo-centrists. It’s some combination of their not knowing and not caring what is the actual center of politics and public opinion. That isn’t the issue, as far as they are concerned.

      Nor are they ultimately trying to convince anyone else. All they have is their rhetoric. But they’ve already lost the public debate, already lost the fight over the collective imagination. Most Americans know these people are spewing bullshit. The point isn’t to convince others, but rather to convince themselves. Their only strategy is a rearguard action in defense of their worldview. They are so attached to their fantasy of a ‘center’ that they will sacrifice everything, even reality itself, in maintaining that fantasy.

      The story they are telling is simply a facet of the status quo. The problem they face is the status quo is mortally wounded. And these pseudo-centrists are the walking dead. Their fantasy of a ‘center’ doesn’t exist and so can’t actually be defended. This makes them all the more anxious and fearful… and potentially dangerous, as they have nothing to lose. It’s like a religious terrorist who is willing to die for belief in a god that doesn’t answer their prayers, with their desperate actions motivated by a hope to invoke their god and force his hand.

      But a fantasy of ‘centrism’ can’t save us. It doesn’t matter how zealously some may believe in that fantasy. The fact of the matter is that it holds little power over the majority who now see through the illusion. Stories can be powerful, until they come to be seen as mere stories. Then a new story needs to be told. That is where we find ourselves, a society that no longer has a compelling story to make sense of it all. When the powerful fail in their role as storytellers, they lose power.

      So what story do we want to tell? The new story we choose will determine the new society we begin to create. The center of any society is the overarching narrative and shared vision that becomes implanted within the collective mind. The center is imagined into existence as a collective choice, not forced by a minority onto the majority. Such societal imagining is a radical act. It isn’t a fantasy to be worshiped but a vision to be enacted. But first and foremost it has to be compelling to society as a whole, not just cheap rhetoric and blunt propaganda used to keep people in line.

      This forming of a new vision is an organic process. It must emerge from the people, like a seed taking root in the soil. That is what makes it radical and hence unpredictable. We can’t fully know what seed has been planted until it emerges. That is the nature of change. And that is why those defending the status quo cling so tightly. But they will tire and their grip loosen. There is no turning back. The change has already begun and now we must patiently wait for what will follow, like tending a garden.


      “Yet again you’re trying to move the goalposts – not taking about the Dem establishment, but even with that, you’re still wrong.”

      What does that even mean? The Democratic establishment control the Democratic Party and determine what gets passed into legislation. That is what parties are about. Who controls the party defines the party.

      “Sanders’ gun position is to the right of most Dems.”

      Sanders defended the right of gun manufacturers to not be held liable, something Clinton attacked him about. His position was common sense and in line with the American public. Either guns are legal or not. It does no good to blame companies that are following the law in selling a legal product.

      Like most Americans, Sanders BOTH supports gun rights AND gun control, the first part being to the right of Democrats and the second part being to the left of Republicans. So? That is my point, as the two main parties are out of alignment with most Americans. Anyway, how does that make Sanders an extremist?

      “Guns are a perfect example of how Dems are to the left of the American people. Roughly 25% of people want to band the sale of handguns – guess who the vast majority of those people are? Democrats.”

      Look at a recent CNN/ORC poll:

      Click to access cnn_orc_poll_june_20.pdf

      From 2011 to 2016, 54-62% favored “A ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of semi-automatic assault guns, such as the AK-4,” 53-62% favored “A ban on the sale and possession of equipment known as high-capacity or extended ammunition clips, which allow some guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before they need to be reloaded,” 87-92% favored “Preventing certain people, such as convicted felons or people with mental health problems, from owning guns,” 85% favored “Preventing people who are on the U.S. government’s Terrorist Watchlist or no-fly list from owning guns,” and 9-13% favored “Preventing all Americans from owning guns.”

      So, the vast majority of Americans do support gun bans. What they disagree about is which gun bans they prefer. But most Americans, including most Democrats, are against total gun bans. Besides bans, gun control in general remains popularly supported. Even most NRA members and most gun owners support gun control (by the way, liberals have fairly high gun ownership and guns in household). More interesting, the majority of Republicans supported Obama’s gun control initiatives.

      “A CNN/ORC poll shows that 67% of Americans are in favor a series of executive actions Obama proposed earlier this week, while 32% are opposed. Obama will expand background checks in an effort to reduce gun violence, while making the process more efficient. […] Support for the president crossed party lines, with Democrats (85%), independents (65%) and Republicans (51%) in favor of the measures. Some 57% of gun owners are also in favor.”

      Americans are a lot less divided than they get portrayed. Consider this Pew poll:

      A majority of gun owners and a majority of non-gun owners agreed in their support of banning gun sales to the mentally ill, expanded background checks on gun sales, barring gun purchases by people on federal no-fly or watch lists, and creation of a federal database to track gun sales. Almost half of gun owners also back banning assault-weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

      “About nine-in-ten Americans (89%) favor preventing people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns. Nearly as many favor requiring background checks for private gun sales and at gun shows (84%) and barring gun purchases by people on no-fly or watch lists (83%). Roughly two-thirds or more strongly favor all of these proposals.

      “Substantial majorities also favor creating a federal government database to track all gun sales (71%), banning assault-style weapons (68%), and banning high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition (65%).”

      It depends on the specific issue. But gun control in general is strongly supported by Democrats and Republicans, gun owners and non-gun owners. The main public debate is not about whether or not to have gun control but what kind.

      “Respondents are largely united in support of specific measures that restrict access to firearms.

      “A vast majority of voters polled — 92 percent, according to the CNN/ORC poll — favor background checks for anyone attempting to purchase a gun. Eighty-nine percent of respondents in a CBS poll said they did as well.

      “Nearly 9 in 10 voters support a law preventing individuals on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms, according to both CNN/ORC and YouGov. The CNN/ORC poll also shows that almost 9 in 10 voters favor preventing people with mental health problems and convicted felons from owning guns.

      “A key takeaway: Question phrasing matters. The term “gun control” seems to be a politicized phrase that encourages a partisan response. Yet when polls ask about precise measures, Americans show overwhelming support for certain restrictions.

      “Most Americans polled also support other gun control measures, though to a lesser extent. About 6 in 10 respondents support a ban on the sale of assault weapons, according to the YouGov poll and a new NBC/SurveyMonkey poll released Tuesday morning. And a Morning Consult poll shows that more than three-quarters of voters support creating a national database with information about each gun sale.”

      The wording part is important. Most Americans don’t identify as liberals, even as most Americans support many specific liberal positions and policies. Beyond wording, this has to do with identity and perception. Most Americans are simultaneously symbolic conservatives and operational liberals. But in politics, symbolic politics is powerful and easily manipulated (e.g., wording). That is always the problem with mainstream polls that don’t follow careful social science methodology and so have a hard time getting at underlying ideology.

      “Nearly no Democrats support overturning Roe. Same as other issues, most of those who think there should be no restrictions at all on abortions – Democrats.”

      What is your point? Most Democrats, like most Americans, don’t support overturning Roe vs Wade. Pro-choice is now majority public opinion. As for no restrictions, very few Democrats are in favor of that. Pointing to a small percentage of Democrats isn’t all that helpful. Most Democrats, like most Americans, do support minimal restrictions. Your trying to spin the data is dishonest.

      “Healthcare is the same. While a supermajority supports the general idea of universal healthcare, the left and center diverge on details. Most of the support for single payer… Democrats, with the rest of the spectrum mostly in line with something akin to the Public Option (which, you can get to over 75% support, if you mention the choice it adds – the main selling point – Single payer is stuck around 50% in the best polls).”

      Once again, most Americans and most Democrats agree in supporting some variety of healthcare reform to the left of the Republican-originated Obamacare. If the American public wanted Republican healthcare, they wouldn’t have voted for Obama. The point is that the majority of Americans want healthcare reform that goes much further, specifically a majority that wants government to ensure all Americans get healthcare. Sure, there is debate about specific proposals and the details of issues, but the support remains broad.

      “As for taxes – perhaps the best illustration of how Sanders is off the leftist deep end as far as most of the country is concerned is the fact that most of his own supporters aren’t even willing to accept the increase in taxes that Sanders’ plans would cause”

      Are you trying to be dishonest or do you not understand? Sanders’ tax plan is progressive. As with most Americans, Sanders proposes that the wealthy and big biz pay higher taxes. Sure, it’s true that most Sanders’ supporters aren’t among the super rich nor do they own a big biz, but then again that is true for the majority of Americans that also support progressive taxation. This is simply the kind of progressive tax that was in place for decades earlier last century. It’s what funded the New Deal, rebuilding US infrastructure, funding education, subsidizing housing, etc.

      Besides, the issue isn’t just funding. The US wastes tremendous amounts of money on healthcare. There are countries with better healthcare and with better health results that do so while paying less. Even worse, the US government is constantly giving away large swaths of wealth, such as selling natural resources from public land for below market prices which is just another form of corporate subsidy. Plus, there are the straightforward subsidies that go to various corporations, some of the largest being big ag. And that doesn’t even consider the wasteful spending we throw at the military-industrial complex. We don’t lack wealth. We could pay for all that Sanders proposes without raising taxes at all, if we were willing to corporations off from the government teat.

      “As I said above – the agreement is in vaguely stating that taxes on the wealthy should go up, not in support of the huge tax increases on Sanders’ agenda, which – I might add – didn’t even add up to pay for all of the spending programs he said those already huge tax increases would pay for… so they’d have to be even bigger.”

      Sanders’ tax plan was more detailed than that of Clinton’s. It was also far more popular.

      “A new WalletHub/Survey Monkey poll of 2016 taxpayers found that Bernie Sanders has the most popular tax plan of all the presidential candidates in both parties.

      “Of those who picked a favorite candidate tax plan (34.1% had no idea), Bernie Sanders was easily the most favored. The Sanders tax plan was supported by 26.3% of respondents. Hillary Clinton’s tax plan was second at 13%. Donald Trump was third at 11.8%. Ted Cruz was fourth at 7.5%, and John Kasich was fifth at 4.7%.

      “When the results are combined, Democrats have a roughly ten-point edge on the Republican candidates on taxes. The issue for Republicans is two-fold. Republican presidential candidates like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are running on abolishing the IRS, but 86% of respondents to the survey believe that the IRS is necessary. By a margin of 58.6% to 41.4% taxpayers believe that their tax rates are too high.

      “The message from this survey is that taxpayers prefer tax plans that would raise taxes on the wealthy while cutting them for middle and lower-income individuals and families. Tax cuts for the wealthy are not popular. Every Republican presidential candidate is proposing a massive tax cut for the wealthiest individuals. The popularity of the Sanders tax plan, which is the harshest of any plan on the wealthy and corporations, suggests that the pain of economic collapse and subsequent Wall Street bailout still resonates with taxpayers.

      “Taxpayers feel like they got the shaft in the Great Recession, and they are looking for a president that will make the wealthiest Americans and big business pay their fair share.

      “The Sanders tax plan has been criticized by both his Democratic opponent and Republicans, but it is also by far the most popular plan with taxpayers.”

      “With the most progressive tax policy of any candidate, Sanders would dramatically increase taxes for the very wealthy and high-income earners (as well as moderate increases for the middle- and upper-middle classes) in order to pay for key planks of his social agenda including tuition-free public college, a Medicare for All healthcare program, massive infrastructure spending, and paid family leave for all workers.

      “According to recent analysis (pdf) by the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, an implemented Sanders’ tax plan would generate more than $15 trillion in revenue over its first ten years.

      “Len Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center, told Bloomberg News that not only is the Sanders plan the most ambitious among the 2016 candidates, it is also the most detailed. Compared to Clinton’s more “incremental” approach to taxation and social change, said Burman, “Bernie Sanders clearly wants to change things radically. There’s a very, very clear choice.””

  2. Centrist Democrats are now responsible for Trump if you think about it.

    They created the economic despair and the neoliberalism that brought people to the point where they had felt the status quo was intolerable, resulting in a Trump win.

    The sad thing is that the Democratic Establishment is no better than Trump. Sure they may give lip service to the parts that the public wants to hear, but they won’t fight for them enthusiastically.

    • The pharmaceutical lobbyist who was made the head of the California Democrats, second in power only to the DNC, shot down single payer which is supported by not just a majority of Californians and a majority of Democrats but a majority of Americans in general. That is the Democratic establishment. And that is why so many voted for Trump or didn’t vote at all, rather than vote for someone like Clinton.

      “All of this is a diversion. It is a diversion from the DNC cheating in the primaries, from Clinton’s terribly run campaign, and it’s a diversion from the Democrat’s embarrassment for losing to Trump. In essence, it’s a way for Democrats to deflect responsibility for their loss. But most of all, it is a diversion from the popularity of Sanders’ policies. Political and corporate elites have much to lose when Americans stand together and demand a piece of the 1%’s pie. Perhaps nothing fills our government with more dread than the population unifying against them to demand basic human rights. Therefore, the diversion is intended. The Democratic Party does not want to change, and corporate and political elites, do not want to solve the numerous long-standing economic and social issues that are plaguing this country. I think Sanders said it best when he said that the Democratic Party “would rather go down with the Titanic so long as they have first-class seats.”

      “Unfortunately, stirring political division is old-hat for politicians, and they’ll gladly invest in that division before they will invest in the public good. The problem is that the political and corporate establishment have a much larger platform than the average person, and they have been convincing all of us to vote against our interests for decades (unless of course, you are a billionaire). More than that, Democratic leaders been quite convincingly talking left while walking right since the 1980’s.

      “It’s been effective, most Democratic voters are completely oblivious to the right-turn their party has taken. While the #resist faction foam at the mouth over the prospect of Trump’s impeachment, their leaders are busy moving the party toward Reagan-era Republicanism. While they consume themselves with this week’s Trump scandal, Democratic Party leaders and Representatives including DNC Chair Tom Perez, Nancy Pelosi, and Marcy Kaptur are actively courting anti-abortionists to stuff under their “big tent” before the 2018 Midterm Elections. Apparently, when Democrats say they need to woo more voters, they mean voters with ideologies more regressive than their own, not their progressive base.

      “Of course, this has largely been ignored by rabid party-first loyalists. The faux-progressive squad over at Daily Kos had plenty of righteous indignation for Bernie Sanders’ support of moderately pro-life Dem candidate Heath Mello. However, they’ve been virtually silent as their preferred establishment leaders jump into the sack with anti-abortionists. That includes their deafening silence when Clinton chose pro-life candidate Tim Kaine as her running-mate. Unfortunately, Liberals aren’t concerned with consistency, reasonable debate, or progress. Their primary goal is to completely alienate progressives. The party’s goal is to do anything possible to avoid having to implement Sanders’ policies.

      “While Americans are struggling, Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu is promising the GOP tax breaks for the rich in return for impeaching Trump. Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff devotes nearly every tweet to trashing Trump; rather than to promoting policy. Maxine Waters has become a media darling of the Trump-Russia narrative. Waters’ Twitter page looks more like an HUAC field guide than an elected official’s social media page. Choose any Democrat’s social media page in the era of Trump, and you are likely to find 100’s of posts dedicated to Trump-trashing, and virtually none discussing policy. In fact, many have argued that policy discussions should be put on the back-burner, while Democrats focus their energy on ousting Trump. Frankly, that position is very convenient for those who benefit from the system. However, that position comes at the expense of those who do not.

      “While centrists work feverishly to paint progressives as a radical faction mirroring the Alt-right, please know that it is not us…it is you. Progressives have not made a radical shift in how they view social and economic issues. Progressives are not using racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny to coalition build, and they are not sh*tting on struggling human beings in some of the poorest regions in the country just because Clinton lost the election.

      “In word and in deed, Democrats have radically shifted to the right. Whatever the Democratic Party once was, it is now dead and buried. Dems are so far to the right, neocons like “Nichols, Navarro, Rick Wilson, David Frum, and Louise Mensch have become New Democratic thought-leaders” (@TheXclass4Ever). “Liberal” news media have filled their rosters with a host of new conservative pundits and writers, one can only guess, in an attempt to normalize the next 4 years. For progressives, the remedy for Democrat’s hard shift to the right is not more centrist pablum, it is swift over-correction. Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that Democrats are not particularly interested in shifting the party back to the left.”

  3. Change in society has never happened because the powerless asked nicely for the powerful to allow change. Of course not. Yet many activists pretend that is how change happens, as if they are playing a game where the stakes don’t really matter.

    Either we want change or we don’t. Either we make demands or we don’t. Either we seize power or we don’t. There is no two ways about it. I’m not one who wants revolution. But that isn’t the point. It’s not about what any of us personally wants as individuals. Revolution is near inevitable… failing that, collapse or worse.

    In an immoderate society, moderation is meaningless. Paradoxically, the only way we can seek to create a moderate society is by eliminating the extremism that is being pushed by those falsely claiming to be ‘moderates’. They aren’t moderates and they don’t want moderation.

    We have to change our thinking and change our way of taking action, if we want to change the world. Otherwise, more of the same will just lead to more of the same. We face a choice.

    “This is the fundamental thing. I think one of the problems with contemporary activism is that we’ve really lowered our horizon of possibility. We’ve really changed what we think success is. If you look at the 18th, 19th, 20th centuries, what did success mean as a political activist, a political revolutionary? It meant the Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution, or the American Revolution. Taking control of one’s government, changing the way power functions. […]

    “Yeah, we’ve come to a dangerous point where what’s really going on, and this is the deep thing that no one wants to talk about, which is that the left has been taken over by anti-revolutionaries. The left actually doesn’t really believe in the desirability or possibility of revolution anymore. I think that has a lot to do with the trauma of our past revolutions: the experience of the cultural revolution in China, the Stalinist gulags. All of that kind of stuff has turned the left into people who believe in reform, not revolution.

    “Now look at the right. The right’s all about revolution worldwide. That’s why they’re winning. I think that’s really the fundamental problem here. People who celebrate the grand successes of Black Lives Matter and Occupy and Standing Rock and all these protests. It feels really good to celebrate those things as success, but it’s leading us further and further away from real success, and that’s dangerous. I mean we’re seeing how dangerous that is right now with Trump in so many ways. He is fundamentally pushing our world into a dark place. So it’s very dangerous for the left to continue to treat online social marketing as if it were social activism. Protest alone does not give us political power. That’s why we have Trump right now. […]

    “We do live in a time of increasing frequency and size of social protests. But that does not mean that these social protests are becoming more effective.

    “You can get 4 million people into the streets and there is no requirement in our Constitution or in our laws that the president has to listen. He’s able to say, “Thanks, go home now.” And they go home. We need to stop with this naïve belief that if we just get more people into the streets, then we’ll get what we want. No, it’s not true! They don’t have to listen anymore.”

  4. I finally found info on Uniters Centrist. He is Solomon Kleinsmith.

    His Facebook About page showed me he was born in 1979. That makes him 4 years younger than me. Also, that is the last year that typically gets included as part of GenX. Being on the cusp of Millennials, his young adulthood was spent more in the 2000s, whereas mine was in the 1990s. That could explain a fundamental difference in political experience. The Clintons had already fully become the Democratic establishment by the time he was involved in politics. As such, he wouldn’t have much memory of the world that came before.

    The Quora profile was the most informative.

    “Active in independent and moderate politics since after coming out of college, I entered my 20’s as a sort of moderate libertarian. I evolved toward settling as a centrist independent over a few election cycles, although I did have forays into attempting to fit in as a moderate democrat / moderate liberal or moderate Republican / moderate conservative.”

    That is another difference. Kleinsmith’s move toward the center comes from the political right, i.e., American libertarianism. That obviously biases his view of ‘centrism’ in a particular direction.

    Going by his statements to me and his comments on social media, he seems to have maintained a basic libertarian view, politically left on social issues and politically right on economic issues. That would make sense, considering his criticisms of Sanders are primarily economic. Sanders calling himself a socialist has to grate on Kleinsmith’s libertarian predisposition, even though in reality Sanders is a moderate New Dealer and Scandinavian-inspired social democrat, although one could portray Sanders as a Milwaukee-style municipal/sewer socialist.

    This is problematic for Kleinsmith’s claims of moderate centrism. And it maybe clarifies the ideological confusion he expresses.

    He sees Sanders’ economics as left-wing. If he were to admit that most Americans share Sanders’ economic positions, he would have to acknowledge that means he is economically on the political right. Going by what he has said, my sense is that he went from fiscally conservative libertarianism to fiscally conservative neoliberalism. For example, he tweeted that, “Amazing how insanely out of touch w reality wingnuts can be. Just saw Sanders left winger say liberals are right wing economically.” If by ‘liberals’ he means Democrats, then he is arguing that neoliberal corporatism represents left-liberal economics. Considering he puts neoliberal corporatism on the left, just imagine what he considers to be right-wing economics.

    Economics seems so important to him and so much of the disconnection he feels is that he really isn’t in the center. He can only pretend to be in the center by portraying Sanders as a radical left-winger and ignoring those even further left.

    Like corporate media and corporatist politicians, Kleinsmith’s entire view of the political spectrum is skewed toward the right. Sanders’ is made to be the far edge and any left position beyond that is simply ignored. As a self-proclaimed ‘centrist’, he wants to be a gatekeeper of sorts, someone who has the authority to say what is allowed and not allowed, but his aspirations as an authority figure overreach his influence. He is a failed and frustrated wannabe gatekeeper and most Americans don’t care about his pseudo-centrist opinions and claims.

    “Perhaps most notably, I would have been the volunteer head of college outreach for the McCain campaign in 2000, had it made it to Nebraska. My last attempt at fitting in with a party was a stint with the Democrats between 2007 and 2009, where I founded Omaha for Obama and later accepting the leadership of Nebraska for Obama – which acted as the de facto Obama campaign for much of the cycle since the actual campaign didn’t arrive until about six months before the election.”

    Not only was Kleinsmith a libertarian but one of those that sided with Republicans. The 2000 election in which he campaigned for McCain was the election when Nader ran as one of the only sane voices to be heard in politics. That was also the election when Republicans stole the presidency and, after refusing to demand a full recount, Democrats conceded to that theft. There was a bipartisan consensus among the political establishment that it was normal or acceptable for the Supreme Court to declare the presdent by fiat.

    He calls me a conspiracy theorist because I point to Jimmy Carter’s assessment that the US is a banana republic. Carter, in terms of establishment politics, is as moderate centrist as they come. If I’m a conspiracy theorist for agreeing with Carter, that makes Carter also a conspiracy theorist. Of course, Kleinsmith could inform himself by learning how a banana republic is defined by political scientists and by learning why Carter came to his conclusion.

    His support for Obama doesn’t say much. It turns out that Obama was just another neocon and neoliberal, carrying on many of the policies of the Republicans, even making Republican-originated healthcare reform his signature legislation. Like McCain, Obama represented the center of Washington DC, although far from the center of the American public.

    “I’ve done work with and/or for those I found common cause with all over the spectrum, from libertarian, leftists, conservatives, a number of nonpartisan groups and efforts and obviously centrist and moderate groups, websites,”

    Yet he can’t find common cause with Sanders’, the most popular politician in the country who holds positions supported by the majority of Americans. Considering that he thinks neoliberal-neocon Democrats are leftists, not centrists or center-rightists, the common cause across the political spectrum mostly just means he has worked with both major parties, specifically in support of the most establishment candidates.

    When I asked Kleinsmith what he mean by centrism, he asserted that he was talking about the “American political spectrum,” as if it were self-explanatory. But various statements he made were inconsistent and sometimes contradictory. His ‘centrism’ is hard to pin down, as he won’t define it precisely and how he uses the term changes with context. He even went so far at one point to claim that, “I haven’t used the word ‘centrism’, because that’s not a thing.” That coming from a guy whose username is Uniters Centrist, a username he uses for online commenting and social media. He has referred to centrism on a regular basis on social media and in his various online profiles. It appears to be a core part of his identity. Yet he has the balls to tell me hasn’t used the word ‘centrism’. WTF!

    He seems to believe there is some kind of political spectrum that is common knowledge, agreed upon by most people, and defined by mainstream thought (specifically the mainstream thought of corporatist Democrats and corporate media). He tweeted at me that, “The middle isn’t defined by Democrats & GOP – GOP is farther to the right on the spectrum, Dems are left, but not as far left as GOP.

    But why does the duopolistic stranglehold of the political elite establishment get to decide what is the ‘middle’ of all of politics for all of Americans? It seems that anyone and everyone who disagrees with these self-proclaimed ‘centrists’ are therefore extremists who are a threat. This is because these ‘centrists’ style themselves as having the sole moral claim and public mandate to rule American government and dominate public debate. This is the ideological vision of supposed moderates who see themselves as the center of the world. A bit arrogant or even narcissistic.

    Let me size up how Kleinsmith sees the US political spectrum, according to statements he has made. FDR is a right-winger to the right of every living Democrat (presumably FDR would be a Republican in present politics), Theodore Roosevelt and Eisenhower are centrists, the Clintons are moderate left-liberals, and challengers like Sanders (and I assume Nader as well) are dangerous radical left-wingers. So, the political consensus of the Washington DC establishment is the definition of the general center of the US political spectrum, around which and toward which politicians should moderate in order to avoid the the perceived extremes.

    Yet when I forced him against the wall, he admitted that Sanders was a centrist on guns and abortion, that most Americans want what the ‘mainstream’ calls leftist healthcare reform (acknowledging that Obamacare is unpopular while single payer and public option are popular), and that most Americans do want progressive taxation with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. His disagreement with Sanders, the most popular politician in the country, is quibbling about the details and exaggerating small differences… or something like that. In the end, he just doesn’t like Sanders’ politics and as a self-proclaimed ‘centrist’ anything he disagrees with can’t be centrist, no matter what most Americans say.

    Even though he basically admits that Sanders’ proposals and public opinion are more in alignment than not (specifically more in alignment when compared to other major politicians), he continues to argue that Sanders somehow goes too far, especially on economics. Meanwhile, the political history of the supposedly Clinton New Democrats is completely out of alignment with public opinion, such that Clinton lost two presidential elections and remains one of the least popular politicians in the country, but somehow Kleinsmith argues that the center is somewhere between the Democratic Party and Republican Party. That means the ‘centrism’ he is defending is to the right of the Democrats, and that is with the political establishment of the Clinton New Democrats already being to the right of the American people.

    For those who care more about facts than opinions:

    “For the third time in a row, a poll has had Bernie’s favorability rating higher than every other politician mentioned in the poll.

    “After the entire Democratic Party machine, along with the corporate media, put all of their energy in the primaries to smear him, call him and his supporters sexist and racist, he is still the most popular politician in America. They must really like this guy.

    “So if Bernie remains to be the most popular politician despite all of the establishment’s efforts, they would try to appeal to his supporters, and stop smearing him, right?”

    “Sanders is viewed favorably by 57 percent of registered voters, according to data from a Harvard-Harris survey provided exclusively to The Hill. Sanders is the only person in a field of 16 Trump administration officials or congressional leaders included in the survey who is viewed favorably by a majority of those polled. […]

    “Besides Republicans, though, Sanders is popular among broad swaths of the registered voting population. […]

    “Among registered voters, fifty-eight percent of women view Sanders favorably, as do 55 percent of men. He is most popular among people aged 18 to 34, who give him a 62 percent approval rating. Sanders also has majority support among those over the age of 50.

    “While Sanders struggled during his Democratic primary challenge against Clinton in states with large African-American voting populations, he is viewed favorably by 73 percent of black registered voters.

    “That’s better than Hispanics, at 68 percent favorable, Asian-Americans, at 62 percent favorable, and whites, at 52 percent favorable.

    “Sanders is viewed favorably by 80 percent of registered Democrats, even though he has steadfastly refused to join the party whose presidential nominee he campaigned for.”

    “A new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll finds 57 percent of the public saying that the government should do more to solve problems and meet the needs of Americans, versus 39 percent who said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.

    “That’s the highest share yearning for a more active government since the poll began asking voters about the role of government in 1995. And it’s a significant shift even since 2015, when 50 percent said that the government should do more while 46 percent complained that it was too active.

    “The shift also comes after a political campaign that saw party orthodoxy upended on both sides of the aisle.

    “As the Republican presidential nominee last year, Donald Trump defied the traditional GOP promise of federal belt-tightening, defending government programs like Social Security and Medicaid and pledging a massive infrastructure plan. Candidate Bernie Sanders won unexpected momentum during the Democratic primary by trumpeting his support for a single-payer health care plan, expanded Social Security and tuition-free public college.

    “Americans of all political stripes have trended towards a more active government in the past few years, but the shifts have been particularly significant among independents and Republicans.

    “For example, in October 2010, 17 percent of Republicans said that the government should do more, while 79 percent said it was doing too much. In the latest poll, the share of Republicans saying that government should do more is up to 28 percent, while 69 percent say it does too much.

    “The net change for independents is even more dramatic. In 2010, independents favored a less active government by 22 percentage points. This year? They favor a more active government by the same share.”

    “Public support for fighting poverty is growing.

    “A much–publicized poll from Harvard’s Institute of Politics last week finds that millennials increasingly favor government action to reduce poverty and expand opportunity. In fact, 47 percent of those between the ages of 18-29 agree that “basic necessities, such as food and shelter, are a right that government should provide to those unable to afford them.” That’s up from 43 percent last year and 42 percent in 2014. A similar number of millennials—45 percent—believe the government should spend more to reduce poverty. That’s a dramatic increase from the 40 percent who shared this view in 2015, and the 35 percent who did in 2013.

    “But what the media missed in covering this poll is that these numbers actually understate the broad, bipartisan support for key safety net programs that help low- and moderate-income Americans.

    “A Vox/Morning Consult poll last month found that 60 percent of people ages 18-29 would be willing to pay additional taxes to fund “welfare benefits, such as help for women with infants or children, or nutrition programs”—significantly higher support than the Harvard findings. A majority—51 percent—would also pay more taxes to provide additional income assistance for those living below the poverty line.

    “Moreover, support for antipoverty programs is not limited to younger voters. 53 percent of Gen Xers—those between the ages of 45 and 54—support more benefit funding for women, infants or children. And when it comes to Social Security, a majority of voters in every age group would be willing to pay additional taxes to fund the program—including 56 percent of millennials. In fact, a Pew poll this year found that 54 percent of respondents from all age groups think aiding those in poverty should be a “top priority” for Congress and the President this year.

    “The lesson from this data is clear: the American public overwhelmingly supports investments that expand opportunity for low- and moderate-income people, and they are even more sympathetic when asked about specific programs. This sentiment shouldn’t come as a surprise. From Medicaid to Pell Grants, Americans have long supported public efforts to reduce health care costs, improve education, and expand opportunity.

    “Now they just need their leaders to listen.”

    ““The overwhelming majority of the American people — including many people who voted for Mr. Trump — support the ideas that we’re talking about,” insisted Sanders. “On many economic issues you would be surprised at how many Americans hold the same views. Very few people believe what the Republican leadership believes now: tax breaks for billionaires and cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

    “Public polling tends to support his claim. A Gallup survey from last May, for example, revealed that a majority of Americans (58 percent) support the idea of replacing the Affordable Care Act with a federally funded health care system (including four in 10 Republicans!), while only 22 percent of Americans say they want Obamacare repealed and don’t want to replace it with a single-payer system. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll from last year had similar results: Almost two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) had a positive reaction to “Medicare-for-all,” while only a small minority (13 percent) supported repealing the ACA and replacing it with a Republican alternative. These are surprising numbers when you consider how the Sanders campaign’s “Medicare-for-all” plan was written off by critics as being too extreme.

    “On other issues, a similar story presents itself. Public Policy Polling (PPP) has found that the vast majority (88 percent) of voters in Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — four crucial swing states, three of which went to Trump this fall — oppose cutting Social Security benefits, while a majority (68 percent) oppose privatizing Social Security. Similarly, 67 percent of Americans support requiring high-income earners to pay the payroll tax for all of their income (the cap is currently $118,500), according to a Gallup poll. America’s two other major social programs, Medicare and Medicaid, are also widely supported by Americans, and the vast majority oppose any spending cuts to either. In fact, more Americans support cutting the national defense budget than Medicare or Medicaid.

    “It goes on and on. A majority of Americans, 61 percent, believe that upper-income earners pay too little in taxes. A majority of 64 percent believe that corporations don’t pay their fair share in taxes. Significant majorities believe that wealth distribution is unfair in America, support raising the minimum wage (though perhaps not as high as Sanders would like), and say they are worried about climate change.

    “So a consistent majority of Americans would seem to agree almost across the board with a self-proclaimed democratic socialist and object to the reactionary agenda of congressional Republicans.”

    “A new WalletHub/Survey Monkey poll of 2016 taxpayers found that Bernie Sanders has the most popular tax plan of all the presidential candidates in both parties.

    “Of those who picked a favorite candidate tax plan (34.1% had no idea), Bernie Sanders was easily the most favored. The Sanders tax plan was supported by 26.3% of respondents. Hillary Clinton’s tax plan was second at 13%. Donald Trump was third at 11.8%. Ted Cruz was fourth at 7.5%, and John Kasich was fifth at 4.7%.

    “When the results are combined, Democrats have a roughly ten-point edge on the Republican candidates on taxes. The issue for Republicans is two-fold. Republican presidential candidates like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are running on abolishing the IRS, but 86% of respondents to the survey believe that the IRS is necessary. By a margin of 58.6% to 41.4% taxpayers believe that their tax rates are too high.

    “The message from this survey is that taxpayers prefer tax plans that would raise taxes on the wealthy while cutting them for middle and lower-income individuals and families. Tax cuts for the wealthy are not popular. Every Republican presidential candidate is proposing a massive tax cut for the wealthiest individuals. The popularity of the Sanders tax plan, which is the harshest of any plan on the wealthy and corporations, suggests that the pain of economic collapse and subsequent Wall Street bailout still resonates with taxpayers.

    “Taxpayers feel like they got the shaft in the Great Recession, and they are looking for a president that will make the wealthiest Americans and big business pay their fair share.

    “The Sanders tax plan has been criticized by both his Democratic opponent and Republicans, but it is also by far the most popular plan with taxpayers.”

    “With the most progressive tax policy of any candidate, Sanders would dramatically increase taxes for the very wealthy and high-income earners (as well as moderate increases for the middle- and upper-middle classes) in order to pay for key planks of his social agenda including tuition-free public college, a Medicare for All healthcare program, massive infrastructure spending, and paid family leave for all workers.

    “According to recent analysis (pdf) by the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, an implemented Sanders’ tax plan would generate more than $15 trillion in revenue over its first ten years.

    “Len Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center, told Bloomberg News that not only is the Sanders plan the most ambitious among the 2016 candidates, it is also the most detailed. Compared to Clinton’s more “incremental” approach to taxation and social change, said Burman, “Bernie Sanders clearly wants to change things radically. There’s a very, very clear choice.””

    • I do despise dealing with people like that. There is a dishonesty that is hard to make sense of it because it is maybe more a lack of awareness than bad intentions. It’s someone who can’t be honest with themselves.

      He is free to dislike Sanders and what he represents. But he isn’t free to pretend that Sanders and what he represents isn’t immensely popular and well supported by the American public.

      As frustrating as the interaction was, it did serve a purpose. He demonstrated exactly the problem I’m constantly seeing. There are too many people caught up in false narratives.

    • I give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t assume the worst of people, until they prove otherwise. Kleinsmith’s first comment to me wasn’t exactly welcoming a friendly response, but I had no reason to question his sincerity and honesty. I have to wonder after our interaction.

      His last comment to me was making an argument that not only Sanders’ supporters were extremists but that Democrats were extremists. He kept trying to spin the data. He would cite a small percentage of Democrats that held a position to argue all Democrats are out of touch or far from the center, and thus proving how even more radically extremist are progressives.

      But a small percentage of any group will hold views outside of majority opinion. Many Republicans and independents, even many supposed ‘centrists’ and ‘moderates’, hold various views that aren’t majority opinion. Even within majority opinion, there is much diversity. Very few people are exactly in the middle on every issue.

      As always, it’s a choice to either emphasize the differences or to emphasize the commonalities. It’s just strange for someone like Kleinsmith, claiming to be a centrist, to argue that even those in the mainstream are so divided. Is he arguing that only an elite vanguard represented by people like him are holding the middle ground and everyone else is an extremist? As far as I can tell, Kleinsmith himself holds some views that are far from the majority.

      His claims of centrism end up seeming disingenuous. Who elected him as the king of the center. Many people claim to be in the center and most of them disagree about all kinds of things. Far right conservatives for decades claimed to be the moral majority. It’s questionable that they ever were a moral majority of the entire US population, but it for damn sure hasn’t been true for decades. Still, it didn’t stop right-wingers from claiming to be the center of what Americans believe in and value.

      Here is the problem. Kleinsmith just assumes he is right, without any responsibility to have to make an honest argument. He is the center because he says so and because others who already agree with him also claim to be the center. Well, why is his claim any more worthy than anyone else’s claim. He asserts that most people are honest and so that we should take claims of centrism at face value. But if that is the case, why does he dismiss the claims of centrism that conflict with his own and refuses to take them at face value. Are the only honest people those who agree with him?

      As for myself, I don’t question Kleinsmith’s honesty because he disagrees with me. It is perfectly fair for him to criticize Sanders. But it would a bald-faced lie for him to argue that, in doing so, he is representing most Americans. He isn’t in the center, no matter how much he is attracted to the mainstream rhetoric of ‘centrism’. That is fine. The argument he is making isn’t about where the center is but where he wishes it were.

      He should be honest enough, which is to say self-aware enough and informed enough, to state this directly. This would first require self-honesty, before he could attempt to be honest with others.

      The most amusing part is turning ‘centrism’ into an ideology. Then it becomes another form of group identity to be defended with groupthink. Kleinsmith declares himself a Real Centrist in the way some people declare themselves to be Real Americans. It becomes ideological purity that must be tested and proven, according to those proclaiming to be the authority. Many people like me claim to be more or less in the center of public opinion, but obviously we aren’t ideologically pure enough for the ‘centrist’ gatekeepers. This is how majority public opinion is so easily dismissed and thoughtlessly ignored by those within the two-party system and big biz media.

      It’s no accident that Kleinsmith appears to be at least upper middle class (his profiles state he has owned and managed numerous businesses with hundreds of employees). So, he is a person of privilege, well situated within the upper classes of influence. He has written for some major publications and he states that he has been sought after as an authority on ‘centrism’. So, he isn’t just an aspiring gatekeeper but some extent has played that role, at least in the past. It is privileged people like that who can stake the center, punch left stating this far left and no further, and pretend like the centers of power and narrative control haven’t been shifting right for decades.

      It is irrelevant what Kleinsmith believes about the center. He is not an average American. He does not represent and cannot speak for majority public opinion. But even among those who aren’t privileged, speaking about the political center is difficult and complicated.

      I was thinking about it this way. Most Americans, if asked, would probably state they are in the center/middle of public opinion and the political spectrum. People tend to think of themselves and those like them as ‘normal’ and hence the social norm. It’s human nature. But within the broad middle, there is a diversity of views. Most self-identified ‘centrists’ likely would disagree about what is the precise center and what defines it.

      It’s similar to a piece of data I recently came across. Somewhere between 80% and 90% of Americans perceive themselves as being in the middle class. I suppose technically that is true. All of these people are in the middle between extreme poverty and extreme wealth. To be perceived as ‘centrist’ or ‘middle class’ isn’t a mere objective calculation based on factual data. It rarely is that. It’s social perception and value judgment. These are categories that signify human worth. Our society places these as the ideals to strive toward.

      I could add other things. Polls show that most Americans think they are above average in IQ, diving ability, etc. It’s everyone else who is somehow inferior. That is why someone like Kleinsmith will claim the center for himself while dismissing others as extremists. No doubt Kleinsmith would also claim to be above average in IQ, driving ability, etc. Humans are funny like that.

      My frustration gives way to amusement. It’s all so silly.

    • There is a basic difference between Kleinsmith and I. His ‘centrism’ is defined by the center of power within the establishment duopoly, as represented and framed by the corporate media. OTOH my ‘centrism’ is defined by the center of public opinion within the silenced and disenfranchised majority of American citizens, as given voice by those like Sanders, Nader, Bageant, MLK, etc. The former is a vision of authority and the latter is a vision of democracy.

    • Here in the US, I’d be happy to hear some basic public debate about the most important issues and policies with honest, informed disagreements. Seeing serious reporting on it in the mainstream media would by itself be a major achievement.

    • I’ve been going on about such conspiracies since the 1990s. But that is why the mainstream always portrays people like me as loony paranoiacs and radical extremists.

      The saddest part is the unintended consequences. Many bad results begin with good intentions.

      The US covert operations were strongly supported and promoted by Eisenhower. He did so for a number of reasons. As a military man, he never liked war because of the death and destruction it led to. He thought that covert operations could prevent wars. Instead, it has turned out to be war by other means that leads to death and destruction in other ways. I guess destroying democracy is not the best way of lessening violence in the world. Eisenhower could warn about the military-industrial complex because he participated in it, both as a general and a president. He saw it develop from the inside.

      A similar example is the Carter administration. Reaganomics is a misnomer. Those economic policies actually began under Carter. The thing about Carter is that he was more of a conservative on economic issues and helped create an entirely new era of American economics. He was the first Democratic president to fully turn against the New Deal, although hints of that betrayal could be heard from JFK as well. There was no major Democrat who was willing and able to defend the New Deal, once FDR was gone.

      In the end, neoconservatism and neoliberalism came to dominate both parties. This became the Washington consensus. And this is what has come to define the ‘center’ for self-proclaimed ‘centrists’ like Solomon Kleinsmith (AKA Uniters Centrist).

      ExposedTyranny3 days ago
      Looks like those conspiracy theorist’s back in the 50’s were correct.

      End of the Rainbow2 days ago
      exactly! Operation Ajax is proving the veracity of most “conspiracy” theories regarding the state of Iran.

      Antman46563 days ago
      I would put money on that every coup going on in the world today has the CIA involved in it. Just like Venezuela. The CIA has American interests at heart and that means Capitalist and business interests.

      Hadi Pourkerman3 days ago
      CIA is the greatest terrorist organization in of all time

      Andreas Kreissl3 days ago
      The US is the greatest
      – in the promotion of extremists
      – overthrow of governments
      – Support for disgusting regimes
      – leading wars for the ever-greedy
      – the undermining of democracy
      – Suppression of minorities
      – the imprisonment of people
      – the exploitation of resources and people
      – to lead the world to the brink of its destruction

      Rose Stewart3 days ago
      this has been a secret from Americans but has always been known by the people of Iran…and the rest of the world (or at least the Commonwealth countries). it’s funny how Americans claim it wasn’t a democratically elected government because they don’t use the same system as theirs ie the parliamentary system instead of the presidential system.

      I guess this is the justification they’ll use for taking over Canada and the UK

      TerraRubicon3 days ago
      Clear evidence that people in the higher echelons of power simply behave like mafia..

      Terry Fitzgerald2 days ago
      And the Russians tried to influence our elections? OH HORRORS!

      MrMooemoney3 days ago
      CIA = foot soldiers of the bankers and oil men!

      danny j2 days ago (edited)
      Another great piece of journalism. I remember reading that some CIA documents came out about the time of the Nuclear Deal showing that CIA/MI6 used the Ayatollah Khomeini to help stir up the crowds and build animosity against Mosaddegh in 1953. The idea being that it was to foment disruption in Iran to stop them from signing the deal.

      These documents and previous information also shows that not only was the Reagan team negotiating with that same Ayatollah Khomeini during the 1980 US election (to hold the hostages to prevent Carter from being reelected), but the Carter people were negotiating with him, too. In both cases, they wanted the Islamic radicals to hijack what was mostly a secular, socialist revolution. Like in Syria today, the West prefers Islamic Radicals to Secular Socialists But Reagan’s people offered the better deal – which was the start of the whole Iran/Contra guns and cocaine crime spree.

      TheKeithvidz2 days ago (edited)
      And America and the west has gall to demonize the islamic state…on israel’s behalf in part. After 1953 Iranians were left to pick up the pieces and suffer.

      A stain on your hero reputation Eisenhower – you uprooted another people first leader the year following: Guatamala.

      tomitstube2 days ago (edited)
      c.i.a. capitalism’s invisible army. kind of of expels the myth that capitalism/america organically won the cold war, that socialism fell because capitalism was a better system. especially when you consider how popular american socialism was with fdr and how it created the greatest middle class in history. but vulture capitalism has waged wars and coups around the world in almost every country on this planet, and inside the united states… see the palmer raids and the red scare of the 1950’s. but capitalism hasn’t won because it’s organically better, it’s won the day because it’s the most ruthless, diabolical, and militarized system in history. and what’s the chance you’ll see that described in any american high school history book?

      Massoud G23 hours ago (edited)
      Still US do the same ugly things all around the world , I am sorry for common American and people inthe third world.The result of these things bring all kind of problems for every body . Even for those people that made these ugly things , If they did not do this today Iran could be very successful and democratic country

      bboucharde1 day ago
      The US doesn’t just “hack” or “meddle” in governmental affairs of other nations—-It will decapitate a regime it does not like—unless that regime has even a handful of nuclear weapons……..

      Kevin Hall1 day ago
      Read “All the Shah’s Men” by Stephen Kinzer. This has been known for years but the American and British public are completely clueless about why Iran hates us. Also read his book “The Brothers” about how the Dulles brothers screwed up human society for 200 years.

      Alpha Beta1 day ago
      USA has a long history of overthrowing governments.

      Pejhman Bakhtiary23 hours ago
      it’s not ancient history for me and my people. that event changed our life and badly affected our life till now. this fucking regime we have now is one of the effects

  5. Here is the kind of problem with those who often identify as ‘moderates’ and ‘centrists’, those demanding compromise and tolerance no matter how bad things get, as if calm reasonable (i.e., ‘mainstream’) dialogue will solve all problems:

    View at

    “Today, however, some Charlottesville anti-racism activists have begun disrupting white supremacists’ gatherings at local establishments on the city’s downtown pedestrian mall. A growing number of restaurants and bars there refuse to serve these white supremacists, or have banned them following altercations with staff or activists. But a fair number of self-identified moderates and liberals in this upscale, small Southern town are more concerned to continue dining in peace on $40 locally-sourced medium-rare steaks and $15 glasses of Côtes-du-Rhône. They ask, Why are all dinner patrons within hearing distance — themselves and the white supremacist organizers alike — being disturbed, when everyone should be enjoying a quiet evening out with friends? (Because public safety, particularly that of marginalized communities, is at risk.)

    “Aren’t these noisy anti-racist activists simply fanning the flames? (No. The activists are pulling the proverbial fire alarm on a fire already in progress that is proximate to marginalized communities, and threatens to engulf everyone. The activists aren’t being “divisive”; rather they’re exposing tensions which have existed for centuries which are now being exploited in increasingly dangerous ways.) Isn’t everyone, even “alt-right” organizers, entitled to freedom of speech and assembly? (Answer: not when they have announced on social media that they intend to incite violence.) The First Amendment stops the state from curtailing political speech and peaceful public assembly, even those of insult-spewing, hateful bigots. But the First Amendment does not prohibit private citizens’ countering of, and private businesses’ right to refuse service to, those same bigots. Being an insult-spewing, hateful bigot has consequences: it may lead to social rejection, and it is not a protected category with respect to equal accommodations.) The state will not prohibit white nationalists from organizing; concerned civilians face a different set of restrictions — and have different tools available. We can’t falsely scream “fire” in a theater, but the theater owner may refuse to admit a patron who previously threatened to bring matches and lighter fluid.

    “Some fence-sitting moderates and liberals go on to complain that their polite sensibilities are offended by anti-racism activists’ relentless verbal confrontations with groups of known “alt-right” organizers, at times amplified by bullhorns and punctuated with shouts of “Fuck white supremacy!” To this tone policing (amid the literal over-policing of left-wing activists and their protest plans) one activist from the local Black Lives Matter chapter retorted: Why does the first word of that slogan offend you more than the last two? White supremacy is indeed offensive. And its encroachment is dangerous and incendiary. There is no polite way to alert people when their house is on fire.

    “Reflecting the opinion of more provincial portions of their audience, local media too often focus on the blaring annoyance of the fire alarm, rather than the smoke and flames which occasion it. Behind-the-curve journalists bury the lede within a studiously neutral on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand “report the controversy” frame, instead of investigating the fuller scope of the problem, which is that the “alt-right” is surging locally and attracting an ever more sinister cast of national figures. (After receiving a tip that white supremacists and anti-racism activists were arguing — again — on the downtown mall, one television reporter told me to update her if the public stand-off devolved into violence, so that she could alert her station to send a camera team. If it bleeds, it leads.) Other stories demonstrate that the interviewer lacks familiarity with the disturbing positions espoused by the “alt-right” interviewee and their fellow travelers. The result is a kid-glove treatment of white supremacists which normalizes them as simply a new, if quirky, offering within a range of political options. Although we are not in as dire circumstances, Charlottesville anti-racism activists feel a kinship with their besieged Civil Rights-era predecessors in the 1960s South, who beseeched the national media (read: Northern outlets) to Please Send Help.

    “Hand-wringing civil libertarians tut-tut at anti-racist activists’ give-no-quarter, allow-no-platform tactics and admonish them to “grow up,” respect “free speech,” or urge us to pursue dialogue with those who consider us to be subhuman and who advocate for our removal from their hoped-for white homeland.”

  6. I had some more thoughts about Solomon Kleinsmith (Uniters Centrist). They’ve been rolling around in my head these past days. That interaction bothered more than any other has in a while. It furthers the frustration I felt from the campaign season.

    It’s not really about ‘centrism’ but about attacking progressives. And I would add that progressives were never identical with liberals. Progressivism was always a much broader ideological vision that drew support from diverse group:, left and right, lower class and upper class, secular and religious, populists and technocrats, alternative and mainstream, etc. It was more of a set of alliances, an attempt to offer a pragmatic and compelling alternative to the ideological dogmatism and authoritarian tendencies of ethnonationalist fascism and centralized state communism.

    Kleinsmith argues that he is a ‘centrist’ based on a number of reasons. One of the strangest reasons is that some have said he is on the political left while others have said he is on the political right. So, he reasons that must mean he is right in the middle. That is stupidly idiotic and simpleminded.

    My more idealistic, new agey friend has stated that he sees me as a conservative. I’ve identified as a liberal at times, but I’ve also noted that I have some strong conservative tendencies such as not preferring the new for the sake of it being new and advocating the cautionary principle, environmental conservation, community, and public good. I’m for damn sure not a classical liberal hyper-individualist and I resonate with the traditional criticisms of post-Enlightenment thought, specifically the weird hybrid of classical liberalism and the reactionary mind along with the privileged strains of the liberal class.

    Considering all of that, what am I? I have elements from different ideological perspectives and others have noted this in me. By Kleinsmith’s argument, I must be a ‘centrist’. But how can that be when I’m to the left of Kleinsmith or rather he is to the right of me? And what about my dad who as a Midwesterner self-identifies as a conservative but a Deep South friend called him a secret liberal?

    I’ve observed that some liberals in the South are more conservative than some conservatives in the North, partly because of a potent strain of reactionary mind in the South. There is no single defining context and so no single center. But there are some centers that are more relevant than others. I’ve argued that in the context of US politics the only meaningful definition of center is public opinion, assuming that we are aspiring toward democracy. That said, this center of the American majority would seem conservative compared to Scandinavia and liberal compared to China. It can be fairly argued that a larger international context isn’t necessarily helpful, though. More importantly, this center of the American majority is pretty far left of the Washington consensus, when it comes to issues like war, policing, healthcare, and taxation.

    Everything I bring up here isn’t difficult to understand. That is what perplexes me about the simplemindedness of Kleinshith. He claims to have a college degree in political science, to be a tech expert, and an accomplished businessman. He is an aspiring public intellectual who obviously sees himself as an authority figure within the intellectual elite. He is a man of the world and probably of a decent amount of wealth, enough to live a comfortable life. He is far from being an average American. I don’t doubt that he really does have a college degree and I don’t doubt that he probably measures well above average on IQ tests. But he doesn’t come across as a deep or careful thinker, despite the arrogance of his intellectual confidence and self-certainty.

    Let me give an example of inconsistency or laziness in Kleinsmith’s thinking. He stated that Eisenhower was a centrist, in the same comment where he called Bill Clinton a moderate. Sure, that is fine. Let’s take that as a starting point and just assume it is correct, an objective and factual assessment of political reality. Eisenhower, a Republican, was a neocon in his geopolitical ambitions and use of covert operations to overthrow democratic governments and promote US interests, including neoliberalism. He also played a central role in promoting the religious right into taking over the GOP and set the stage for the Southern Strategy. Yet he also had a top marginal tax rate of 91%, spent more than 500 billion building the interstate highway system, expanded social security, and later warned of the military-industrial complex he helped to create.

    Eisenhower was a creature of corporatist politics, although he also had a conscience that balanced that out which is to say that he meant well. The point is that he was acting within the Washington consensus of his era which involved a still dominant New Deal and an emerging dominance of Cold War. He had conservative tendencies, but rightwingers of his day called him a communist. I guess that he was a ‘centrist’ in terms of the Washington consensus. There is no doubt that he was to the left of fascists and to the right of actual communists. Ignoring whether it made sense to call him ‘centrist’ earlier last century, does it make sense to call him a centrist now? Even by today’s standards, Eisenhower was fairly liberal on social issues such as civil rights. For both economic and social reasons, someone as far left as he was couldn’t be nominated as the Republican candidate or likely even the Democratic candidate.

    Kleinsmith complains Sanders is to radically left-wing. Yet all that Sanders is talking about is a Scandinavian-style social democracy. His suggested top marginal tax rate is around 50%, far below that of Eisenhower’s administration. Sanders even joked that he was less of a socialist than Eisenhower. The highest the top marginal tax rate ever got in the US was 94%, but even as late as 1982 under Reagan it was at 50%. Scandinavian social democracies are able to maintain their strong and generous social safety nets with top marginal tax rates of 40-60%, which they do by eliminating tax loopholes. Yet Kleinsmith, the self-avowed ‘centrist’, goes batshit crazy over Sanders’ rather moderate tax proposal supported by the majority of Americans. That is because Kleinsmith is an economic right-winger.

    The reason progressive taxation was emphasized earlier last century was because inequality had worsened. But consider the fact that inequality is the highest now in the US that it has ever been for any country in world history. Some argue why does it matter if the rich get richer. For one, a permanent underclass is forming as wages stagnate or drop for most Americans, as economic mobility lessens and the middle class shrinks, and all of this as the costs of living (housing, healthcare, etc) and the costs of escaping poverty are growing more immense (education, profesional training, etc.). Worst of all is the impact this has on the social fabric. A ton of research has shown that, while inequality increases, a wide variety of social problems get worse — involving not just economics but physical and mental health, violence and crime, public trust, political corruption, etc. This is why high inequality has long been associated with banana republics, in fact being one of the key indicators. The US has higher inequality than did the classic, defining examples of a banana republic.

    I’m not sure Carter ever used that specific terminology. He did specifically call the US an oligarchy, not a functioning democracy. He gave very clear reasons for making that accusation and they were factual reasons. He was stating the obvious about big money has come to dominate, which is called a plutocracy. This is a common sense conclusion for anyone who is honest and paying attention. Carter is fairly ‘centrist’ in how that is meant by Kleinsmith, although it should be noted that Carter is to the right of Eisenhower in numerous ways. Anyway, Carter is far from being a radical, crazy left-winger. In fact, Carter arguably was the first neoliberal president. Reaganomics was a misnomer, as those economic policies actually began under the Carter administration. Carter was never anti-capitalist, but then again neither is Sanders anti-capitalist, no more than FDR or Eisenhower was with their high progressive taxation. So when someone as fiscally conservative as Carter points out the the severe dysfunction of our present plutocracy and oligarchy, maybe anyone claiming to be in the “Sane Center” should pay attention. Maybe?

    It’s not like Carter is the only major figure to make comments like this. Other politicians and public intellectuals have said similar things for decades. It’s long been a key criticism of public debates about poverty, inequality, concentrated wealth and power, political corruption, a neocon-neoliberal hybrid of geopolitical neo-imperialism, etc. And there has been immense research verifying these criticisms. To ignorantly dismiss all of this is not sane in the slightest. As someone claiming to have a political science degree, I’d expect Kleinsmith to already know all of this. Yet he is completely ignorant and that ignorance is apparently willful, not merely passive and unintentional. He actively goes out of his way to not acknowledge this kind of info. So, how do those like Kleinsmith represent the “Sane Center”?

    “Is Bernie Sanders politically to the right of Eisenhower?

    “Economically, yes. But in social terms? Not at all.

    “In terms of proposed (or implemented) tax policies, Sanders is to Eisenhower’s right- Ike’s top marginal tax rate was 91%, Sanders proposes a top rate of 52%, on income in excess of $10M/yr.

    “In social policy terms, it’s probably a draw. Ike expanded Social Security (as Sanders proposes to do), and created a new cabinet-level secretary for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, while extending benefits to many more people, integrating the military fully, and more- most notably, adding a civil rights division to the justice department, de-segregating Washington, DC, commissioning a Civil rights commission to investigate voting rights infringements. Eisenhower was well ahead of his time when it comes to civil rights and race, even today he’d be called a flaming liberal.

    “In terms of infra investments it’s not even close. Ike championed the interstate system and saw it built! That’s a ton of public infra, lots of new spending to undertake (in the wake of all that war debt, while paying it down!). Sanders is talking about repairing some of that as a reach goal. Score: Sanders to Ike’s right.

    “In terms of religion, Sanders is quite secular, Ike presided over the push to put God on our currency, in the pledge, on the national motto. This tips Ike to Sanders’ right.

    “Sanders is a champion of the marginal, dissident, and downtrodden- both in the US and abroad. Ike presided over a foreign policy that was covertly but actively about putting US corporate interests over those of people living elsewhere. The Eisenhower doctrine in the middle east essentially undermined democracies in oil-wealthy places, replacing them with strong-men that would owe America (specifically, her corporate overlords) fealty (and wouldn’t flirt with those pesky Russians during the cold war). (for a fascinating insight into the legacy of the Eisenhower doctrine in modern Syria, read this: [Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria ]) This puts Sanders pretty firmly to Ike’s left in foreign policy terms. (tho granted, Sanders came of age in a time where the blowback from Ike’s doctrine in southeast asia and the middle east were becoming apparent.)

    “Are they comparable? Yes, and no. In some ways, Sanders is to Ike’s left- in others, he’s to the right. But at the same time, they occupy very different places in space and time. Sanders grew up in the wake of the very large impact Eisenhower had on the world- both in terms of his role as supreme commander of allied forces during WWII, and in his role as America’s Cold War president.”

    “Myth: Bernie Sanders has called for a 90% tax rate

    “Fact: Bernie Sanders’ tax plan has been released, and it is a top marginal tax rate of 52% (meaning income above $10,000,000 would be taxed at that rate). The 90% figure comes from his alluding to the fact that the top marginal tax rate has been as high as 92% (including under Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower) with no apparent loss in economic growth.”

    “During the eight years of the Eisenhower presidency, from 1953 to 1961, the top marginal rate was 91 percent. (It was 92 percent the year he came into office.)

    “What does it mean, though? For the duration of Eisenhower’s presidency, that rate affected individuals making $200,000 or more per year or couples making $400,000 and above per year.

    “In 2015 dollars, that’s roughly $1.7 million for an individual and $3.4 million for a couple.”

    “There are some big differences between the Sanders plan and the midcentury tax regime. For instance, back in the 1960s, 0.1-percenters got hit hard by the corporate and estate tax. Sanders, it seems, would put more emphasis on direct income taxes, including capital gains—which makes more sense in a world where corporations and the rich have become adept at using tax havens but might create slightly different economic incentives.

    “The major takeaway, though, is that when it comes to tax rates, Sanders really isn’t talking about much we haven’t seen before.”

    “And that is Sanders’s point. Under Eisenhower, taxes were higher for the upper-class, who weren’t as rich as America’s wealthiest today.

    “Also, historians would be quick to point out, one of Eisenhower’s greatest achievements as president was the creation of the Interstate Highway System – a massive civic infrastructure project that cost the equivalent of more than $500 billion in today’s dollars. Also, in his farewell address, Eisenhower warned the country about the growth of the military-industrial complex, a phrase now decidedly associated with liberalism.

    “And yet the former World War II general and Republican president also outlawed the Communist Party of the United States and stepped up aggression against the Soviets and their allies by adopting the “Domino Theory” of foreign policy, an approach that would ultimately draw the United States into conflict in Vietnam.

    “Of course, as many pundits have pointed out throughout the course of the current campaign, Sanders is not actually a socialist either.

    “In a recent interview with The New York Times, sociology professor Lane Kenworthy of University of California at San Diego said he thinks Sanders’s use of the word “socialism” is, “causing much more confusion than it is adding value.” Mr. Kenworthy suggested a more fitting term for Sanders would be “democratic socialist capitalist,” which essentially means “very liberal.”

    “President Eisenhower, on the other hand, was no liberal. In a 1954 letter to his brother, Edgar, President Eisenhower wrote of his opposition to centralizing US governmental functions more than necessary. But Eisenhower acknowledged that “to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it.””

    “To today’s oligarchy, taxing the rich at an above 90% marginal rate is akin to Lenin setting US government policy, which is why many of the richest people in the nation sneeringly refer to Sanders’ “Democratic socialism” – which actually preserves capitalism – as dyed-in-the-wool Bolshevism.

    “Indeed, if you look to the three Scandinavian nations – Sweden, Norway and Denmark – that Sanders refers to as models for his particular vision of “Democratic Socialism” (which is not by any means a comprehensive state-run ownership of production or property), they are capitalist – not socialist – nations with a strong safety net. The Scandinavian governments might provide everything from health services to free college tuition to livable pensions (with variations among them), but their economies are not socialist; they are strongly capitalist. Sweden and Norway – because of its vast wealth from North Sea oil – are particularly prosperous.

    “According to the pro-corporate think tank, the Tax Foundation, “Denmark’s top marginal effective income tax rate is 60.4 percent. Sweden’s is 56.4 percent. Norway’s top marginal tax rate is 39 percent.”

    “The highest federal marginal tax rate in the United States is 39.6 percent.

    “In fact, even the business-friendly Tax Foundation concedes that the Scandinavian nations are more tax-friendly to corporations than the US […]

    “So who pays for the generous government services in Scandinavia? One can assume that the Scandinavian nations allow less tax evasion. They also, as the Tax Foundation points out, do not provide government services, in general, for free. Workers and the wealthy alike contribute to the state coffers that pay for public services for the entire population of the countries through income and consumption taxes, as well as the corporate taxes referred to above. Norway is an exception, because a lot of its national treasury is filled with money from the sale of North Sea oil.

    “It might also be worthy to note that the Scandinavian nations spend much less of their national budgets percentage wise than the US does on the military, for example. This allows them more funds to be put toward benefiting citizens of the nations.

    “If one is an advocate of true socialism, the Scandinavian nations are not a good example of such a model. That is because they are economically structured as capitalist nations, although they allocate a greater percentage of the gross domestic product for services than the US does. These services address needs that individuals in the United States generally pay for out of pocket, with the exception of programs such as Medicare and Social Security (both of which workers and employers pay into with each paycheck).

    “In this context, Sanders’ “Democratic socialism” is a modified form of capitalism, one that reins in the most glaring excesses of capitalism, raises taxes and social accountability on the wealthiest, and offers a broad government network of public services for the common good. […]

    “In short, based on Kasich’s statement, Dwight Eisenhower couldn’t be nominated by the GOP today because on the issue of high marginal taxes for the wealthy – which is a defining issue for Bernie Sanders – Eisenhower would be considered a socialist.”

    “JB: We last spoke in September. There’s been a lot going on in the interim. I’d like to talk about your recent OpEd, Under Eisenhower, the Top Tax Rate Was 91 Percent. Was He a Socialist?[1.20.16] First of all, let’s talk about that headline. Surely, that 91% top tax rate figure is hyperbole, no? President Eisenhower was a lifelong Republican, after all.

    “MK: No, it is not hyperbole. This is fact. It’s not debatable.

    “Remember, however, that the US has marginal tax rates, which means that the 91 percent tax was applied only to income earned above a certain level. As my recent commentary noted, PolitiFact stated, “A look through the records shows that top earners in the eight years of Eisenhower’s presidency paid a top income tax rate of 91 percent. It was even a bit higher before he took office.” The reality is that it sounds so unbelievable that the most wealthy in the United States paid more than 90 percent federal tax for their higher income earnings because the US has moved so far to the right in cutting top marginal rates. Obviously, Eisenhower was not a socialist, but the tax rate of above 90 percent on upper end earnings during his two terms is just not disputable. It’s a matter of public record.

    “JB: So, if that’s the case and the whole discourse has taken a rightward turn, then, that would still make Bernie along with his proposals an outlier compared to the other candidates, correct?

    “MK: Anyone running for president who proposes raising taxes is an outlier, yes. The US has been brainwashed by the well-financed efforts of the right wing oligarchy – the strategic use of think tanks the media – to believe that low taxation and the privatization of public services that taxes pay for will lead to some sort of Ayn Randian utopia of wealth for “hard working” individuals. However, as Thomas Pikkety documented in the seminal book, Capital in the 21st Century, wealth in the Western world is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of those who inherit it. These people, such as the Kochs and the Trumps of the world, then advocate for lower taxes on the wealthiest. As a result, we have descended from a 94 percent top marginal rate during World War II – for income earned above $200,000 during 1944-45 (not adjusted for inflation) – to 39.6 percent for income earned above $413,000 in 2015. Of course, this does not include the use of loopholes and the lower taxation on capital gains earned from investments. The latter accounts for much of the income of the wealthy, resulting in a much lower tax rate for gains in the stock market, for example.

    “That is why Warren Buffett famously said that he paid a lower overall tax rate on his yearly income than his secretary.

    “JB: Now that’s a jarring factoid.

    “MK: Elizabeth Warren has been brilliant in explaining that the government pays for so many services and programs that subsidize corporations and support individuals, yet the right wing oligarchs have convinced so many Americans that taxes aren’t necessary. What the Paul Ryans of the world basically are selling is snake oil, that citizens of the United States can get government services and support without having to pay for them, particularly those in the upper brackets who most benefit from the public purse. Just ask the defense industry barons.

    “It’s ironic that Eisenhower, a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who had Nixon as his vice president, ended his second term with the warning that the military-industrial complex could consume the US.

    “JB: Talk is cheap. Too bad Ike didn’t actually do something about it before he left office. So, let’s take a look at Bernie’s tax proposals. How do they stack up with, say, the policies in the various Scandinavian countries, for instance?

    “MK: Bernie’s got several tax proposals. Overall, his campaign has been kicking around a proposal for a top marginal income tax rate in the low 50 percent range. That would hardly be a dramatic increase from the current rate, and it would be 40 percent or so below what was the rate under Eisenhower.

    “Sanders has a number of tax proposals, including re-structuring of many taxes. He is for, as Elizabeth Warren is, a tax on financial transactions. He is also for other Wall Street taxes. Of course, he just released his universal health care plan that includes some taxes that are far less, in general, than premiums – even under Obamacare – to private insurance companies. Of course, he also supports cost restraints on health care services and pharmaceutical companies. Eliminating for-profit health care and the private insurance companies – along with putting price controls on big pharma – would cut billions and billions of dollars in medical costs.

    “As I pointed out in the commentary I referred to above, the Scandinavian nations actually have lower tax rates on corporations than the US. Furthermore, they are capitalist countries with a high bottom floor for social services, not socialist countries.

    “In the commentary, I noted that “according to the pro-corporate think tank, the Tax Foundation,’Denmark’s top marginal effective income tax rate is 60.4 percent. Sweden’s is 56.4 percent. Norway’s top marginal tax rate is 39 percent.'” These are far less than the tax rates under President Dwight Eisenhower.

    “My wife and I were just in Sweden over New Year’s and it is an extremely prosperous capitalist nation. We went to an island near Stockholm that was basically a suburb, and it had huge homes that looked like wealthy suburbs in the US. Yes, there is less of a differential in the Scandinavian nations between CEOs and workers, and they do have great social services and family and quality-of-life work laws. In the end, Sanders, however, is correct when he calls himself now a “socialist-Democrat.” He’s really just advocating for government to leave no one behind, and in order to do that the wealthy and Wall Street need to be taxed more – and tax loopholes have to be closed – but he is not promoting a dramatic tax increase.

    “The visible wealth in Stockholm should disabuse anyone who believes increasing marginal tax rates means people cannot be rich. After all, the top tiered tax rate in Sweden is only 56 percent. It’s a bustling commercial city, except there don’t appear to be neighborhoods there that have been left to basically rot. The primary difference with the Scandinavian nations is that the voter consensus is that government adds value to society in services and quality of life. In the United States, the anti-government paranoia and hatred infects such a huge segment of the population that people don’t realize how much public services and programs have done for the nation.”

    “It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and congress members. So, now we’ve just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over. … At the present time the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody that is already in Congress has a great deal more to sell.””

    “The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s ‘news’ media).”

    “A New York Times analysis of Federal Election Commission reports and Internal Revenue Service records shows that the fund-raising arms race has made most of the presidential hopefuls deeply dependent on a small pool of the richest Americans. The concentration of donors is greatest on the Republican side, according to the Times analysis, where consultants and lawyers have pushed more aggressively to exploit the looser fund-raising rules that have fueled the rise of super PACs. Just 130 or so families and their businesses provided more than half the money raised through June by Republican candidates and their super PACs.””

    “BILL MOYERS: You said the other day to someone that we think we can fight the war in Iraq without paying for it.

    “JOHN BOGLE: Well, we borrow the money to fight the Iraq War by some estimates and they’re not absurd estimates is running now towards a $1 trillion. We could be doing what the British empire did. We could be bankrupting ourselves in the long run. And–

    “BILL MOYERS: You see us as an empire?

    “JOHN BOGLE: Well, of course it’s an empire. We reach all over the world. We thought of ourselves in many, many respects as the policemen of the world. God knows we know we’re the policemen of the Middle East. And there are those say, even from Alan Greenspan on up or down, that oil is the root of that. I mean, these are great societal questions. Protecting oil, which is in turn polluting the atmosphere.

    “We have problems as a society. And we don’t have to surrender to them. But, we have to have a little introspection about where we are in America today. We’ve go to think through these things. We’ve got to develop a political system that is not driven by money. I mean, these are societal problems for us that don’t have any easy answers.”


    “Democrats talk a different game, but are responsible to the same one percenters who fund Republicans, so once in office, Democrats govern pretty much like Republicans. In fact Democratic presidents and governors frequently enact the oppressive policies we won’t allow Republicans to enact. ”

    View at

    “The main goal is no longer ending poverty but winning, and doing so by being less bad than the other guys. Quintessential Lesser Evil politics. During Clinton’s presidency, Taibbi says, “purity” came to be derogatory […]

    “Bill Clinton vowed not to be weaker than Republicans, so he attacked welfare, gutted our social safety net. He continued deregulating the financial industry like the Republicans before him. He introduced trade policies so corporations could manufacture their items in countries without minimum wage laws and import them back to cut costs, as well costing Americans jobs. (But it’s okay because they were helping the “job-creators.”) Clinton unleashed his “tough on crime” platform, which we rightly point to not as the root cause of mass incarceration but for exacerbating what had been done by Republicans. They did all the ground work, they loaded the gun; all Clinton had to do was pull the trigger. And pull the trigger, he did.

    “Of course, Hillary Clinton is not her husband, but if she wants to reminisce about the short-term economic boon of his administration, she cannot reject the long-term failures that accompany it. Indeed, she supported all of his policies at the time and most of them today. As Secretary of State she personally oversaw the writing and implementation of more trade deals! And people have the gall to feel offended when we suggest Hillary Clinton is a Republican? Given her history, political tactics, and platform, we might as well have the real thing.
    Even Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary, economist Robert Reich, has come out in support of Bernie, feeling so strong about him that he stepped down from leadership in an organization to endorse him.

    “So where do we go from here? Can we bring the Democratic Party back to its roots, wave good riddance to the Clintons’ Neoliberalism, or is it too far gone?”

    • It’s because you keep having such thoughts that you aren’t a moderate centrist. Every sane, good, worthy person knows that capitalism will save the world. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a lazy loser or a crazy radical left-winger, same difference.

  8. Someone pointed out this article:

    “The intersection of class and race always has the potential to be explosive. This was a nice powder keg, and it just needed the match.”

    There is the key point. That is what is created in a high inequality society. And any society that is high inequality long enough will almost inevitably become divided along race, ethnicity, religion, or something similar. But that is just the form inequality takes.

    The US as a country was built on racialized slavery. What sometimes get forgotten is that racialized slavery was built on inequality. It was because of white and black indentured servants organizing together and revolting together that racialized slavery was created, as a means of avoiding dangerous class conflict. Racialized anything is just one of many possible forms of social control. And in a high inequality society, social control is of penultimate importance.

    In the US, race becomes the way people deal with inequality without having to talk about it. In one of my recent posts, I discussed inequality:

    And in it, I quoted from a book about social science research on inequality. The interesting example I decided to use was studies done on people on planes. It’s the kind of situation, like public schools, that can exacerbate anxiety about socioeconomic class position.

    It’s also interesting that there were two recent examples demonstrating how that anxiety is often projected onto race and ethnicity:

    In both cases, the minority in question wasn’t poor. But that is irrelevant. As the book I quoted from makes clear, it’s always the perception of class that is most central and being a maligned minority means that you will typically be perceived as inferior and potentially dangerous.

    The real danger that is feared, though, is class conflict. And this danger is very much real in so many ways. High inequality societies are known for their violence. When high inequality lasts long enough, history shows that it eventually erupts into mass violence, either dividing the population further or directed toward some scapegoat/enemy. The US has seen many periods of this.

    The Civil War was helped along because so many Northern whites resented the power Southern aristocrats had held over the federal government since the founding. And that Southern aristocracy was so on edge that it attacked a federal military fort because of the anxiety they were feeling, specifically in South Carolina where the majority of the population was black and the majority of the population was poor.

    Another example was the high inequality era of increasing urbanization, industrialization, Robber Barons, bomb-throwing anarchists, Populism, Klan, ethnic organizations, mass immigration, poor whites moving north, labor conflict, Prohibition, race war, organized crime, and high rate of homicides. Two world wars and the Great Depression helped focus some of that anxiety elsewhere. But it was the New Deal that decreased the inequality that was causing the anxiety.

    The main issue of the school article isn’t that the parents are white liberals but that they are wealthier. It just so happens that being a white liberal in the US correlates to relative wealth, but then again so does many other things. Why it stands out is because of the hypocrisy. That isn’t surprising. High inequality breeds hypocrisy because it creates division not just in society but within people’s experience and identity. One thing to be clear about is that high inequality is extremely abnormal conditions for the human species. We aren’t designed to deal with it well.

    These upper class white liberals are attempting to rationalize their position in the social order. Having their privilege pointed out to them makes them uncomfortable and it should. Their position is precarious because class conflict is not a mere metaphor. Actual conflict, even violence, can and often does follow from class divisions. The funny thing, though, is that the liberal class probably has more to fear from the middle class radicalized reactionaries that also form out of high inequality. High inequality, in the end, doesn’t even manage to maintain class solidarity.

    What does it mean to try to be in the center of a dysfunctional society of high inequality and racialized social control? These liberal class white parents, from their privileged position, were trying to maintain their self-perception as reasonable, moderate centrists. It was those other people rocking the boat who were the trouble-making outsiders.

    • This reminded me of a book. It’s by Shannon Sullivan. The title is “Good White People: The Problem with Middle-Class White Anti-Racism.”

      Most people want to think of themselves as good. And most people want others to see them as good. Privilege ultimately becomes about perception management. In an unjust society of high inequality and racism, social and class position requires constant rationalization.

      The moderate centrist and the good liberal are looking to maintain their self-image and social standing. That becomes difficult when they are directly confronted with major societal problems that personally implicates them and their lifestyle.

      Here is a decent article about the role liberalism has played, much more central than that of authoritarian capitalism:

      “The question of liberalism and its role in empire is on our minds these days. Race and the colonial laboratory of oppression was liberalism’s necessary secret: those whom were not yet ready for liberalism and, therefore, must be governed like brutes. Fanon is very conscious that the native elite will participate in this process, knowing and declaring their race to be inferior to the race of the colonizer. It is instructive, here, to ponder Fanon’s disillusionment with liberal democracy. Fanon doesn’t see the wiping clean of the colonial slate in a set of institutions anchored in a fantasy installed by the colonizer himself.

      “Resistance, for Fanon, must and will come from below. It will be brutal, disorganized, energetic, and therapeutic. It will reject the teachings and pacifications of the native elite who walk about as the new colonizers. Fanon was keenly attuned to the fact that skin was but one version of a system of oppression that was historically contingent. Of course, many other tactics and strategies kept the skin question alive in the colonies. It would be diluted only as and when it suited the purposes of power.

      “This is a most astute commentary on the question of race, which is naively talked about in contemporary India in terms of an aversion of dark skin (noting, especially, incidents of African students being attacked by residents of east Delhi). Yet skin is but one idiom of race. Hypersexuality, dangerous virility, lack of reason and discipline, lack of values and aesthetics: all of these are combined in the process of Othering. The Other is selectively beautified, fetishized, hated, killed, memorialized, but never accorded full political status. Different registers of discriminatory reason are invented to fit the racialized perspective at different points in history. I repeat, skin is but one of them.

      “I think of today’s India, while sitting in Toronto. It is easy to earn cosmopolitan brownie points by yielding this or that concession to the Other. The good citizens love dark skin. The good citizens welcome refugees. The good citizens have intercaste marriages. The good citizens know about cuisines, cultures, languages, and paradigms of the Other. Yet Othering doesn’t stop there. I return to Fanon (though, as a writer, I am far more taken with Baldwin) in recognizing the race question as a sovereignty question. The rise of new sovereigns displaces previous ones, existing ones. The sovereign is wily enough to pacify dissenters by granting concessions now and then, posing as benevolent. He does this to quell any potential upwellings of new sovereignty.

      “Liberalism controls our imagination, even more than capitalism (if capitalism were the whole story, then authoritarian capitalist states would not be demonized and ridiculed the way they are in liberal discourse). It is through the figure of the humane, benevolent sovereign that I see race in North America and in India. Blackness is a complex parable of discrimination, narrated through the animality, hypersexuality, and unreasonableness of certain citizens who must be made examples of. The voices of Black Lives Matter and Idle No More echo on social media and on the streets. Yet I find myself turning into Fanon’s native elite who is perpetually saying “yes, but . . .” Perhaps it is time for me and others like me to raise our pitch and try to further the philosophical, no less than political, risks that Baldwin and Fanon resolved to take.”

  9. One thing that was perplexing me is the notion of a “Sane Center.” Obviously, we don’t live in a sane society, even in the most direct sense that the US has high rates of mental illness. Both WEIRD societies and high inequality societies have high rates of mental illness, and the US is both WEIRD and high inequality.

    So the US has a double dose of insanity and a horrible healthcare system to deal with it. Not only does the US have the highest incarceration levels ever before seen in the world but the highest incarceration levels of the mentally ill. We warehouse the mentally ill in prisons because we are so overwhelmed by the insanity of our society and we don’t want to face this collective problem.

    How does one fine a “Sane Center” within an insane society? That is a serious question, the kind of question people advocating moderation and centrism too rarely ask. They too rarely ask it because it leads to radical leftist answers or, worse still, reactionary right-wing answers like ethno-nationalism and eugenics. But for some ‘mainstream’ centrists even a moderate response of progressive taxation is going too far.

    But maybe some are finally starting to understand. I noticed two things. One is a 2012 book about taking back the center and the author appears to be advocating the kind of social democratic policies heard in Sanders’ campaign. The other is a post from the only blog I could find online about the “Sane Center” and one post was a defense of Sanders as a moderate, arguing that he is well within the mainstream tradition of American politics and far from being either a commie or a socialist.

    Those two taken together are interesting. Such sane centrist support of Sanders-style social democracy is considered insanely to the radical left by self-proclaimed centrists such as Solomon Kleinsmith (Uniters Centrist). Isn’t it odd that even those arguing for “Sane Centrism” could be so harshly polarized about actual politics? They obviously don’t agree about the center, the ideology that is or should be at the center. They might not even agree on how to define the entire political spectrum.

    The center is no respite and refuge from conflict but the most contested ground of battle. Pretending otherwise is dishonest… or else clueless.

    • Frank talked about meritocracy being a horrible way of dealing with inequality. My criticism goes a slightly different direction. Most advocates of meritocracy don’t even take their own ideology seriously.

      If they did take it seriously, they would be fighting against all the systemic, institutional, and environmental problems: militarized policing of the poor, school-to-prison pipelines, environmental racism, proven disparities in employment and legal system and healthcare and education, ivy league legacies, low socioeconomic mobility, underfunding of public infrastructure and public services in poor areas, etc. The poor and minorities have immense potential merit that is being damaged, suppressed, and destroyed. The only merit that matters is that of the privileged, but even a rich person with less merit is worth more than a poor person with greater merit. Also, what about the collective merit of a society, specifically that of the political and economic system: public good, public health, public infrastructure, public wealth, culture of trust, low social problems, etc.

      Valuing merit isn’t the problem, if we actually valued merit. The problem of our society isn’t that those with the most merit are rewarded the most but that those who make it to the top are simply those who are better at manipulating the system or who simply were born into it. There are more people of immense merit among the poor than among the wealthy. We have an anti-meritocracy. But even if we did have a meritocracy, the merit of a society would still be judged by how it treated the least among us. It’s not just about individual merit but collective merit. No individual has merit in isolation. We are all dependent on others and have inherited immensely from past generations. Merit accumulates. Abandon all the babies of rich people in the wilderness and see how well their superior genetics helps them survive.

      The danger of the rhetoric of meritocracy is that it is just propaganda to prop up the plutocratic oligarchy. It’s about who has the wealth and power, who controls the media and the political machine to make claims of merit and enforce them. A plutocrat can declare himself as having greater merit for the simple reason no one can challenge him. If a cop showed up while a poor person was having an altercation with a rich person, would the cop objectively measure the merit of each individual or simply arrest or shoot the poor person? Everyone knows the answer to that. The rich person has more merit according to the plutocracy because wealth is the only merit that matters and because the cop’s gun says so in serving the plutocracy.

      And none of it was inevitable, as Frank makes clear. the 19th century had many third parties. They elected politicians at every level of government and controlled some state governments. Third parties maintained power into the 20th century. But laws eventually made them almost impossible to operate, similar to how laws constrained labor unions in having any real power to threaten the power structure.

      What do citizens in an aspiring democracy do when the government has made democracy illegal and impossible? As long as citizens follow the law, they remain disempowered and disenfranchised by default. It will require the public to organize, even in illegal ways. Third parties and labor unions should ignore all laws that are used against them. Millions of Americans should organize and dare the federal government to try to stop them. Then that would put the ball in the court of the ruling elite. They would be forced to make a choice between functioning democracy and civil war or revolution.

      Power never relents willingly. Did the American colonists decide not to revolt because the British Empire told them that it was against the law?

      In some ways, it’s nice listening to Frank. There are too many public intellectuals who are fucking clueless. Even some academics I like can seem stuck in their bubbles. Maybe his past helps, since he didn’t grow up in a coastal big city among the liberal class. As I recall, he was a young Republican. And the state he grew up in, as he has written about, was one of the most populist in American history. It was once known as Bloody Kansas because of the violent class war.

      Frank made a good point about the importance of education and making it available for more people. He agrees that not everyone needs college, but it should be a choice made by individuals not enforced on the poor from above. He points that he was a fuck-up in high school and, because the state college was open admission, they had to accept even fuck-ups like him. College opened his mind. Making college less accessible means we will have fewer people like Frank becoming public intellectuals who criticize the system and challenge the status quo.

      If one looked at Frank in high school, he would have appeared lacking in merit. But after college, he became accepted among the liberal class as being part of their self-proclaimed meritocracy. Frank’s merit was the same in both situations. It was the social conditions that changed how Frank’s potential expressed. Merit is simply human potential that has been nurtured, supported, and encouraged.

      But even Frank ends up disappointing. Despite his greater honesty, he also gets stuck in his demographic and ideological reality tunnel. He should understand the problems of Clinton better than most. Yet he voted for Obama and Clinton, and he admits that he believed the rhetoric both times. How is that possible?

      People like Frank so much want to believe in the Democrats that it has to get extremely bad before they’ll admit it. Frank actually believes Clinton “won fair and square” against Sanders. That is as clueless as they come. And it is sad. Because of that attitude, the Democrats won’t feel any need to change. The next time a Democratic establishment candidate spouts the same bullshit, what is going to stop those like Frank from swallowing it once again?

      Frank isn’t as clueless as some, but he is more clueless than he has any right to be.

  10. Those seeking a center between Democrats and Republicans are looking for a solution to the problem from inside of what is problematic and on the same level that created it. There is no middle between the main parties because they are two parts of the same system, a duopoly. The only real choice available is between this authoritarian system and a non-authoritarian alternative.

    “I’ve long and consistently used a metaphor from the original version of Upton Sinclair’s famous Socialist novel The Jungle, describing the Democrats as one of “two wings of the same [capitalist and imperialist] bird of prey.”

    “I’ve distanced myself from Lesser-Evilism and written and spoken about some of the ways in which the dismal, dollar-drenched Dems (the DDDs) are the greater and (in Glen Ford’s words) “more effective evil.” The domestically (but not anti-imperially) leftish Bernie F-35 Sanders candidacy (which seduced even the officially Trotskyist group Socialist Alternative during last year’s presidential primaries) could not entice me back into my parents’ and grandparents’ party. (Any slight chance Sanders had of getting me on board was lost by his refusal to meaningfully confront the Pentagon system, which undermines the nation’s potential for social-democratic policy by sucking up more than half the nation’s federal discretionary spending in the process of murdering and maiming millions around the world to maintain a global Empire that accounts for nearly half the planet’s military spending and bears the planet’s single largest institutional carbon footprint.)”

    • I had never seen data on strokes. I wonder how it correlates to other data.

      For example, I wonder if it is one of those many things that correlates with the type of factors related to social stress and social problems along with health issues in general, physical and psychiatric. I’m specifically thinking of higher rates of inequality, segregation, etc. Anything that worsens health of a population in general will likely increase the probability and severity of strokes. Social factors have been proven to alter brain development and brain functioning, which presumably would involve greater risk factors for many conditions involving the brain.

      Stroke risk seems like the type of thing that would be the meeting point of many changing conditions. Across generations, there are differences in exercise and diet, of course. But there has also been changes in chemicals in the environment, in housing materials, in bedding, in packaging, and foods. Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens, hormone mimics, and much else. On top of that, Millennials were the first generation to ever have been mass dosed with pharmaceuticals from a young age.

      I saw another article about how the microbiome influences the severity of strokes:
      Microbiomes are central to the bodies functioning. They are also highly influenced by environmental conditions.

      It’s a society-wide experiment. No one has any clue how all of these factors interact to create results that will be unpredictable. It will take at least a century of research to finally understand what has been done to the present population.

    • I think that a big part of it may be that Gen Y is just facing a lot of economic stress that is worse than even what Gen X had to deal with.

      There may be other factors:
      1. Unstable sources of income
      2. Low income altogether
      3. High debt
      4. Limited sleep
      5. Social stresses at much higher levels

      I don’t think that humans were made for the kind of stress people are facing. Even young people can’t take it now.

      The rich are waging class warfare on us and it is having terrible health impacts everywhere.

      • The world is much more high pressure now than in the past. That has been developing for a while now. I saw the changes firsthand as I was growing up.

        When I was in public school, there was minimal homework and not much obsession with standardized testing. The idea of teaching to the test wasn’t a central focus. School experience was fairly laidback and there wasn’t any worry about getting into college or finding a job after graduation.

        The world was already changing, but it wasn’t fully apparent for decades. My generation did show some of the negative consequences of the changes. Still, it was easier to ignore, maybe because my generation was smaller in terms of birth, although we grew in relation to immigration.

        Anyway, by the time I was in high school in the 1990s, there was a clear change in national mood. There was a fear in the air. A few school shootings created moral panic, but that can’t really explain anything as violent crime was actually dropping. The fear was a free-floating anxiety that probably had more to do with worsening inequality and class conflict than anything else, even though few in the ‘mainstream’ were talking about it at the time.

        When I entered high school, there was little security concerns. Seniors were allowed to wander freely and even leave campus during school hours. But by the time I was a senior, the school like so many other schools became much more strict. In the following years, police and metal detectors became more common. That was the world in which Millennials spent their childhoods.

        That sense of anxiety and fear was already in place before the fears surrounding the new millennium, before the 9/11 terrorist attack, and long before the 2008 recession. But when you look at all the factors such as wages, inequality and such, it had been worsening in the decades before Millennials had even been born. It’s just that Millennials happened to show up just at the point when it no longer could be ignored.

      • The 1990s was a strange and seemingly pivotal time. But I’m not entirely sure why. During that decade, violent crime was decreasing in the US and around the world following decades of high rates. This had to do with decreasing lead pollution and lead toxicity. There was also raising of the average IQ in the US and across the world, along with a decreasing of the racial gap in IQ.

        The world was improving in so many ways. The Cold War had ended and the corresponding proxy wars were no longer an issue. The conflicts the US did get involved in at the time were relatively minor compared to the previous 80 since the first world war. All the bad events and problems of the 2000s and beyond (9/11 attack, War on Terror, multiple military involvements, housing bust, recession, etc) weren’t even imaginable to most people at the time. The US had won the war of Cold War ideology, capitalism was ascendant, there was a tech boom, alternative culture was flourishing, and American society seemed on top of the world. Yet the 1990s was period of anxiety and fear. The culture wars heated up, with an obsession over the very violence that was decreasing The right-wing became radicalized and militant, the right-wing media burst onto the scene, and the GOP turned rabid. Why did it happen? And why at that specific time?

        It felt like Americans, without an external enemy to distract them from the worsening economic problems such as inequality, suddenly turned on each other. Into that world of a divided and divisive America, the first wave of Millennials reached their teenage years and the last wave of Millennials was born. Even so, the focus was on GenXers reaching adulthood and so that generation came to symbolize the change. It was a turning point for the country. But at the time, it was hard to see where it was heading. Some went so far as to declare history had ended. Certainly, an era of history had ended. On a personal level, the pivot of the shift was embodied by Curt Cobain’s suicide in 1994, a dividing line between what came before and what followed after. That suicide captured the mood of the historical moment.

        Millennials were most affected by all of this for a simple reason. They had little if any memory of the world that had preceded all of this. All they knew was a period of conflict and transition with an ominous shadow of uncertainty falling upon their future prospects. GenXers at least had the luxury of cynical detachment, as existential threat to the nation felt like an old Cold War fantasy. No matter how bad economic problems harmed GenXers, that generation tended to buy into the mainstream narrative that it was an isolated problem.

        All problems in the last decades of last century had more of a sense of being disconnected from any larger vision. Maybe that was because there was not yet the perspective to see how it all fit together, how all the decades of trends were forming into something larger, although that vision was beginning to form with the increasing protests against globalization. Mainstream society mostly blamed GenXers for their own problems and GenXers were often willing to accept that blame, for the simple reason that we knew we were a messed up generation. Discussion of lead toxicity, inequality, stagnating wages, shrinking middle class, and such was still outside of mainstream thought.

        Millennials didn’t suffer the same kind of illusions. It became more clear as time went on that this wasn’t a generational issue in a simple sense, rather an ongoing and worsening issue across generations. Fewer tried to deny that these were society-wide problems, as terrorism and recession demonstrated. Even the attempts to paint Millennials as narcissistic rang hollow. That generational scapegoating no longer had the punch it once had.

    • I think that it was because in the 1990s, at least there was a decent economy.

      Even though wages were stagnant (They have been since the 1970s), there was a boom for many. It is a society wide experiment for sure.

      • There was a sense of optimism in society at that time. Many Americans were almost gloating with the Cold War ‘victory’. American capitalism was ascendant and the tech boom made it seem like it would continue upwards.

        Yet at the same time, GenX was experiencing the only recession in American history that affected a single generation. GenXers were experiencing high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Minority GenXers in particular were doing far worse than prior generations.

        The thing is that GenXers weren’t yet in a position to exert much influence within the larger society. The older generations in positions of power and authority (politics, media, etc) paid much attention to the problems of GenXers, other than to scapegoat them.

    • Yeah Gen X never really had a serious shot at becoming a middle class society. That’s something that was unfairly denied by older generations. The same is happening with Gen Y today, only the situation seems to be a lot more dire.

      • It often occurs to me that wages began stagnating or dropping for most Americans the year before I was born.

        In the years following that, GenX hit adulthood and were entering the workforce. The last wave of GenXers were in college or getting their first jobs in those waning years of the 1990s. The very last GenXers only hit drinking age with the new millennium.

        I was still in my mid-20s when the Supreme Court declared by fiat that W would be the president. And 9/11 happened when I was barely coming to terms with adulthood in such a fucked up society.

        Those GenXers were barely recuperating from that single-generation recession when the 2008 recession hit the entire country and other countries as well. The difference for GenY is that they never had a single-generation recession and so had to share a recession with everyone else, but that certainly didn’t make it any more comforting.

        The situation is more dire because it just keeps getting worse, as neoliberal corporatism grows along with inequality. It goes far beyond economics to extend into every sphere of politics and society. You see that with worsening conditions hitting hard particular demographics.

        To put this all in context, even as GenXers reach middle age, we remain in a society where Boomers dominate the system of politics and economics. They’ve been the majority in the federal government for almost two decades now. And with improved health and lifespan, some of these politicians (and their corporate cronies) might be able to hold onto power for a couple more decades, unless they are forced out of power.

        The Supreme Court is going to be in the possession of the elderly for a long long time. Most of the current justices are in their 60s to 80s. The most recent appointee is the youngest at 50. Some of these justices easily will maintain their positions into their 90s, if not longer.

        Our president is 71 years old. He is entirely the product of the Cold War, as it started a year after he was born. And if he had been born one year earlier, he would be of the Silent Generation rather than of the Boomer Generation. So, he is old even by the average age of Boomers. We are ruled by senior citizens. When this country was founded, few of the elite would even have lived that long.

        It’s a strange situation.

  11. Here is another example of increasing inequality and segregation. The article is about climate change disasters and how it permanently alters the demographics of entire countries.:

    So what is happening at the national level in countries like the US is also happening globally. Within and across countries, the wealthy are increasingly concentrated among the wealthy and the poor increasingly concentrated among the poor.

    No sane person can think that is sustainable and no moral person would want to attempt to sustain it, even if it were possible. Higher inequality and segregation correlates to numerous problems (social, economic, and health). Magnify that by global conflicts with mass impoverishment, climate change disasters, droughts, regional destabilization, refugee crises, radicalization, terrorism, civil wars, revolutions, international conflicts, etc.

    That is our future, if we continue on this path. Where does one seek a moderate, sane center in a global society heading toward wide-scale disaster, violence, and possibly collapse? If self-identified centrists don’t radically challenge the dysfunctional and dangerous status quo, then they are part of the problem that must be dealt with. There are no other options.


    Some people want to revive centrism. Tony Blair wants to “build a new policy agenda for the centre ground”. And the Lib Dems’ victory in Richmond Park is being seen as a warning to the Tories that it must “keep the votes of the middle ground.”

    This poses the question: does the idea of political centre ground even make sense? It does, if you think of political opinion being distributed like a bell curve with a few extremists at either end and lots of moderates in the middle. But this doesn’t seem to apply today, and not just because political opinion has always been multi-dimensional. What we have now is a split between Leavers and Remainers, and the ideas correlated with those positions such as openness versus authoritarianism. Where does the “centre ground” fit into this?

    My question is reinforced by the fact that centrists have for a long time defined themselves by what they are not. […] I think centrism – whatever it is – could flourish again. But it needs to make a case for existence. And it… isn’t. […]

    This, I think, is the essence of centrism. It accepts that globalization and free markets (within limits) bring potential benefits, but that these benefits must be spread more evenly via the tax and welfare system.

    This stands in contrast to nativism and some forms of leftism which oppose globalization and favour market intervention. It also contrasts to libertarianism and Thatcherism which emphasize freeish markets whilst underplaying redistribution. […]

    And it’s also conventional economics: markets are good(ish) ways of allocating resources, but not so good at distributing incomes.

    This poses the question: what’s wrong with such a vision? Phil says it’s too abstractly technocratic to speak to voters:

    The lived reality of voters are erased by the cult of numbers, or replacing the feeling and perception of economic relief by indices measuring GDP, inflation and wage growth. Interest becomes more and more narrowly refined into a bland national interest, expressed in increasing and decreasing metrics assumed to be in congruence with the good life.

    I have a slightly different beef. It’s that this form of centrism offers too etiolated a vision of equality. Inequality isn’t simply a matter of pay packets but of power too. Centrism fails to tackle the latter. This is a big failing not least because policies to increase productivity might require greater equality of power in the workplace – something which technocratic centrism has long ignored. […]

    For me, therefore, a centrism which ignores inequalities of power must be inadequate.

    Herein, though, lies the sadness: even this form of centrism would be a big improvement upon a lot of today’s politics.

    The key problem here is that the term is not adequately defined. Indeed, many of those using, utilising and arguing for centre ground politics have a rather narrow and flexible definition which might best be described as Humpty Dumptyish in that it means whatever they want it to mean and that does not necessarily coincide with a common sense literal definition.

    Tara Ali’s polemic ‘The Extreme Centre’ looks at the phenomenon of more and more extreme right wing policies and positions being labelled and sold as the “sensible”, “moderate” “centre ground”. Point being that the term has no practical meaning or value any more because it’s been hijacked by extreme right wingers posing as sensible moderates who have taken the original Francis Fukiyama position that history has finished and that their pot pourri neo liberal economics and neo conservative foreign policies are the only legitimate game in town.

    Right now they are beavering away in their respective Westminster gangs trying desperately to undermine the legitimacy of any alternative to their version of ‘the centre’- painting anyone not part of the clique as populists, extremists, terrorists etc.

    This is a bit of a joke. The centre if it existed does not any more. It used to mean a position mid way between soviet style economic planning and unregulated free markets and economic anarchy. But the collapse in the USSR, the worst event in history according to V Putin, means there is no left extreme. All the centre parties have been colonised by right wing ideas that would have been seen as extreme a few decades ago. What needs reviving is the left not the centre. There needs to be a new or revived collectivism to solve social problems that the market and charities cannot resolve. And I mean democratic and consistent with Liberty collectivism, not the authoritarian codswallop sold as an answer to inequality by new Labour and Cameron tories. There also needs to be a new internationalism based on peace not a second imperialism dressed up as Liberal interventionism. Otherwise we risk collapsing into xenophobic prejudice and endless war.

    I think public-private compromises, a hallmark of centrism, are generally outperformed by both either purely public or purely private enterprise. Public-private partnerships tend towards capitalists sucking up to the state, being allowed personal favours, sucking up massive amounts of tax dollars or extorting consumers in some way; aka crony capitalism. Hence a failure of centrisms particular brand of redistribution. I’m not a fan of nationalizing private industry, but having state colleges & universities, state utilities and state healthcare seems sensible to me; though it’s also sensible to allow these to compete with market alternatives.

    I’m also a champion of increasing public arts funding (outside of broadcasting), but getting anyone other than a raging leftist to sign on to that seems thoroughly impossible — so that seems out of the picture for centrism too. admittedly that’s a minor complaint.

    In regards to market distributions, as Marx put it production determines distribution, thus exchange. At this point I don’t think even the right-wing could put an end to redistribution; even the modern conservative generally agrees to it, though to a lesser extent.

  13. I was just reminded that I’m on the blogroll of the Obsidian Wings blog:

    It seems like I’ve been on that blogroll for some years now, as I’ve had people reaching my blog from that blog for a long time now (according to WordPress stats). I don’t know that I’ve commented at that blog, although maybe I did at some point in the past. I suppose someone at that group blog follows my blog and somehow considered it relevant. The blogroll puts me in good company, including such blogs as that of Crooked Timber and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

    Why I mention this is that it’s a blog that is specifically dedicated to moderation: “This is the Voice of Moderation. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’ve actually SEIZED the radio station . . . ” It doesn’t claim to speak for centrism but moderation often gets conflated with centrism. As it is a group blog, I doubt there is a consensus opinion there about the relationship between these two.

    But it seems to imply that at least one other person in the world, besides myself, perceives me as being within the range of some variety of ‘moderate’. And I often point out that my views on many major issues are well within the range of majority public opinion, which to my mind supports my sense of being moderate by the standard of my fellow citizens. Maybe more importantly, I think of myself as a moderate by personality, even as the times I find myself in can make me feel radical and extremist in relation to the establishment.

    That is true of many people, so it seems to me. For example, most people who fight in revolutions weren’t seeking to start a revolution. But once a revolutionary conflict is in the air, it has a way of motivating even the most moderate people to take sides. And soon as society finds a new stability, most people go back to their normal lives.

    I noticed that someone else having similar thoughts as I expressed in this blog and as expressed in the book I quoted, even in making the connection to airline travel:

    Hypothesis: the following are all connected:

    The impossibly rancorous political situation in the U.S.
    The obscene level of wealth inequality in the U.S.
    The increasingly scary stories coming out of the world of airline travel.

    People are a bad mood.

    Fights on airplanes are both a tangible manifestation of and a metaphor for something larger.


    In the growth period before the current crisis few countries had returned to the full employment states that they achieved in the Post World War 2 period up until the mid-1970s when the OPEC oil shocks led to a paradigm change in macroeconomic policy setting. The neo-liberal approach emphasised fiscal austerity to support an increasing reliance on monetary policy for counter-stabilisation.

    So already in this period of relatively better economic growth there were substantial losses being recorded both in terms of lost GDP (production and income foregone) and the additional personal and social costs that accompany persistent unemployment.

    It is well documented that sustained unemployment imposes significant economic, personal and social costs that include:

    loss of current output;
    social exclusion and the loss of freedom;
    skill loss;
    psychological harm;
    ill health and reduced life expectancy;
    loss of motivation;
    the undermining of human relations and family life;
    racial and gender inequality; and
    loss of social values and responsibility.


    Hacker and Pierson cite studies showing that public opinion on issues such as inequality has not shifted over the past thirty years; most people still think society is too unequal and that taxes should be used to reduce inequality. What has shifted is that Congressmen are now much more receptive to the opinions of the rich, and there is actually a negative correlation between their positions and the preferences of their poor constituents (p. 111). Citing Martin Gilens, they write, “When well-off people strongly supported a policy change, it had almost three times the chance of becoming law as when they strongly opposed it. When median-income people strongly supported a policy change, it had hardly any greater chance of becoming law than when they strongly opposed it” (p. 112). In other words, it isn’t public opinion, or the median voter, that matters; it’s what the rich want.

    That shift occurred in the 1970s because businesses and the super-rich began a process of political organization in the early 1970s that enabled them to pool their wealth and contacts to achieve dominant political influence (described in Chapter 5). To take one of the many statistics they provide, the number of companies with registered lobbyists in Washington grew from 175 in 1971 to nearly 2,500 in 1982 (p. 118). Money pouring into lobbying firms, political campaigns, and ideological think tanks created the organizational muscle that gave the Republicans a formidable institutional advantage by the 1980s. The Democrats have only reduced that advantage in the past two decades by becoming more like Republicans–more business-friendly, more anti-tax, and more dependent on money from the super-rich. And that dependency has severely limited both their ability and their desire to fight back on behalf of the middle class (let alone the poor), which has few defenders in Washington.

    At a high level, the lesson of Winner-Take-All Politics is similar to that of 13 Bankers: when looking at economic phenomena, be they the financial crisis or the vast increase in inequality of the past thirty years, it’s politics that matters, not just abstract economic forces. One of the singular victories of the rich has been convincing the rest of us that their disproportionate success has been due to abstract economic forces beyond anyone’s control (technology, globalization, etc.), not old-fashioned power politics. Hopefully the financial crisis and the recession that has ended only on paper (if that) will provide the opportunity to teach people that there is no such thing as abstract economic forces; instead, there are different groups using the political system to fight for larger shares of society’s wealth. And one group has been winning for over thirty years.


    Brett: “But it also means that we don’t find we can’t build refrigerators because some bureaucrat allocated too many people to making toaster parts, and forgot to allocate any to making come critical refrigerator part.”

    Unless, of course, that bureaucrat is a VP or CEO of a big company, who decides they don’t want to build anything, and just sit on the cash, or they want to keep building SUVs instead of smaller cars when gas hits $4 a gallon, or they want to keep building McMansions instead of medium or small houses, or…

    Or that bureaucrat is a wealthy hedge fund manager who won’t take less than 8% return on his investments, and so keeps bundling mortgages into CDOs that are “safe” and somehow return 10%, plus netting him a nice commission when he sells them, or the guy at his firm who wants to be the rich hedge fund manager, so comes up with amazing new “innovations” that he swears up and down are safe, and return 8%, really really, and collects his commission from all the suckers. Or the takeover CEO who doesn’t think the 3% profit margin of the local paper, radio station, manufacturing plant, etc that he just bought is high enough, so “rightsizes” it first, then chops it up and sells it off before replacing it with wire feed, recorded DJs elsewhere, or just ships it off to China.

    That’s one of the problems with income inequality, when so much of the wealth and power and production is isolated in so few people, guess what? We basically have all the downsides of a command economy (short-sighted planners, small groups subject to groupthink, lack of flexibility, disconnect from what the rest of society needs) AND the downsides of capitalism, without very many of the benefits of either. The uber-rich are the planners, and they’re planning things just to line their own pockets.

    Which completely defeats the point of the “free market”, and also was warned about by Adam Freaking Smith, saint of the Free Marketeers!

    “This means that occasionally you’ll see work that could be usefully done, and people idle. But it also means that we don’t find we can’t build refrigerators because some bureaucrat allocated too many people to making toaster parts, and forgot to allocate any to making come critical refrigerator part.”

    That’s not the issue we’re seeing. What we’re seeing is that people have been screaming about costs for so long that critical infrastructure has been left falling apart.

    Now, we could have been spending money to improve that stuff over the long term, but NO!COSTS!TAXES!SMALL GOVERNMENT! has been riding the brakes. Had this not been happening, it’s quite possible that the overall economy would be bigger, and we’d have had a better time absorbing the shocks. Hell – with a bigger “real” economy – real people doing real work creating or maintaining real wealth – there might be a better business model out there than “figure out a way to get someone to pay a lot of money for something that has a lower intrinsic value, and get rich by doing that.”

    (Obviously, money-games aren’t the only business model out there. But they’re too damn big a piece of the pie.)

    However, to be excruciatingly fair, the stimulus couldn’t even find enough truly “shovel ready” projects to fund. And the worst way to handle crucial infrastructure is to do a rush job because you can get money now. (Not that slow, careful planning is all that good. Prediction: Seattle will still be debating the damned monorail in 2020.)

    The problem is that most people don’t get what an economy is. At its root, it’s a way that we create a functioning society, whether it’s making sure we all have nice straw huts and good meat curing for the winter, with plenty of grain stored up – or whether it’s making sure we have a nice house to live in, in a decent neighborhood with a well stocked grocery store close by.

    It’s not about voracious accumulation of wealth. That this is often possible is a side effect, and not an entirely unpleasant one – sometimes those voracious wealth acquirers help build the bigger economy. But that’s what it’s become.

    And because of that, the middle class gets squeezed.

    They’ve been getting squeezed for the better part of 30 years, and it’s starting to hit the limit. And without them, the economy collapses.

    Now, the real tragedy here is that, with a thriving middle class, you have a much bigger economic pie. There’s lots more money flowing, and lots of ways for a smart, hardworking person to find a way to make a nice pile of money. But it means that those most benefiting from income inequality be willing to take a hit, and they’re often the least willing to do so.

  17. There is one other big issue.

    I have noticed that many commentators are saying that the center cannot hold. The issue they never address is that the “center” has failed people to such an extent that they are turning to alternatives because they are desperate for change. The center cannot hold because it is not worth fighting for, so to speak. The center failed the people.

    There is also the tendency to dismiss people who have legitimate economic grievances as being just “populists”, as if that covers up for everything else that is wrong.

    • The center they speak of is a myth. It never real existed, at least not in the way it is being claimed.

      What they mean to say is that the power structure and social order ruled by the corporatist plutocracy can’t hold. That is true. But is there any reason we would want it to hold?

      It’s like, in the years before the American Revolution, some people complaining that the ‘center’ of British imperialism in England can’t hold in the American colonies. And that turned out to be true. So what?

      The ‘center’ of establishment power of the ruling elite tends to not hold for long in systems that have morally and culturally, economically and politically failed the majority of the population that the ‘center’ claims to represent and serve. One system ending is what makes room for a new system.

      If one wants to understand this, one could read a history book.

    • I think that the “lesser evil apologists” never really cared about the common citizen. You can tell that because of how their eyes glaze over when we present Sander’s arguments or the impacts of the decline in manufacturing. They also willfully ignore aspects like CLinton’s corruption.

      We have no interest in the center holding. By contrast, the elite I guess love it because they are using it to loot society. They don’t want the gravy train to stop. So they try to obfuscate the issue as much as possible.

      • The important detail is that everyone agrees it is evil. The question is simply what kind of evil, how evil compared to what other evil, and lesser for who exactly?

        The kind of evil is basically the same in both parties, that is the evil of neoconservatism and neoliberalism: military neo-empire, police state, media-military-industrial complex, plutocratic corporatism, etc. Then it just becomes an argument of which variety of neocon/neoliberalism is less worse.

        But of course that is an issue of less worse in terms of who is being harmed. At this point, it’s far from clear that the lower classes, specifically the permanent underclass, is less harmed by the Democrats than by the Republicans. The two parties work so closely together to fuck over most Americans that it’s an impossible choice and some would argue a meaningless/false choice.

        • The GOP plays the bad cop. Then the Dems come in pretending to be progressive liberals while offering policies that Republicans wouldn’t have touched with a 10 foot pole earlier last century. The Dems can push right-wing policies like racialized tough-on-crime policies, drone warfare, mass deportations, etc in a way the GOP could never get away with.

    • They are basically saying that, yes, we know we are evil but at least we aren’t quite as evil as the other guys. They don’t even need to pretend they aren’t evil scum. It’s like starving person being offered two plates of rotten food and trying to decide which is the least rotten, in the hope that it won’t kill them.

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