How does one fight in an Internet-infested, money-dominated political system?
The old politics is dead. Citizens United granted unlimited, anonymous political bribery to the transnational billionaire class. The legacy media has been conglomerated down to six companies, while the platform media companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter) have instituted censorship and banning. Sock puppets, trolls, doxers, and other slime have demolished the promise of honest intellectual internet debate.
But even all that has not stopped the growing discontent with the neoliberal world order and the neocon Yinon Plan wars. It didn't prevent Occupy Wall St. It couldn't completely stamp out Bernie Sanders' domestic message. It was totally blindsided by Trump's election. Still, it has pretty much kept the left away from power, albeit at the cost of letting Trump (and his corrupt, warmongering neocon/Israeli allies) have control of the executive branch.
This discontent with TPTB isn't only a US problem. Its a problem across Europe, as the recent Slovakian and Ukrainian elections have demonstrated. Here is an observer, other than myself, musing on this problem at the philosophical level:
The structures of politics have become so rigid, so distant, and ultimately so irrelevant to those who vote for them that a trend through countries can now be confirmed. Brittleness has set it. The party and election strategists have few answers, they, who saw the voter as yet another subject, another follower, another convert of a faith. The churches and their following have been turned into secular sceptics and the disenchanted. The non-politician who, nonetheless practices a craft of politics (we are all Aristotle’s creatures), has become a burning disruption.
- Binoy Kampmark, The End of the Politician (in a Fashion): The Slovak and Ukrainian Elections
Well aware of the discontent and cynicism about politicians, TPTB have tried to redefine progressive/liberal by overwhelming the political system with a phony media narrative of who is a liberal. We have long time corporatists now branding themselves as progressive: Corey Booker(Wall St. ass kisser, charter school champion), Que Mala Harris (black law and order). We have a slew of CIA Dems. Beyond such dubious rebranding, the latest tactic to smother honest debate is the profusion of slick neoliberal Dems (Beto, "Pete", Andrew Yang) with "millennial appeal".
Life in a post politics world
We don't have politics; we have the simulacra of politics - Kabuki politics. TPTB have the entire game wired. They control the media; they control the party apparatus; they manufacture candidates by the score. The Congressional races have long since been gerrymandered into "rotten boroughs", except for a few purple districts that preserve the illusion that we have political races.
That leaves only presidential politics, which has turned into a two year long media circus that only those with deep pockets have the stamina to survive. In 2016, TPTB blatantly cheated Bernie out of the nomination, flagrantly used the DNC as a partisan weapon. That got on some radars, so the corpo-dems have now resorted to the "zone flooding" tactic, using zombie Obama's, both black and white, to push the convention into a second ballot where superdelegates will regain their power.
After politics, there are still issues
Given all the above, it is my contention that playing inside the duopoly is a guaranteed to lose proposition. If it is futile to play inside the system, then we obviously need to go outside it. In some ways, Trump is in the WH because he went around the system.
To make any progress, the left has to completely avoid horse race politics and celebrity/savior candidates. The left has to reintroduce issues - issues that cut across party lines. Issues that are bigger than any one candidate. Above all, the left needs to be organized outside the hostile party apparatus.
To be organized, we need an issue. Polls tell us that there are majorities for things that progressives want, such as a reduction in the US military footprint, such as infrastructure spending, such as Medicare for All.
Fiinancialization is the best issue
I think there is one issue that covers a multitude of sins: financialization.
Financialization includes banks, stock buybacks, high frequency trading, asset bubbles, the 2009 bailout sans prosecutions or breakups, debt forgiveness (like OWS buying medical debt), payday loans, credit card interest rates, odious debt, debt caps, bank fees, and the general feeling that we are all being robbed by the financial industry.
Today's financial environment is a deregulated Frankenstein monster that mocks the entire 20th century attempt to prevent the super-rich from looting the rest of us. Just as Trump wants MAGA, the left wants to put the world of finance back into a cage. If the left positions itself correctly, it will have the stance of conserving the legendary America that Trump is invoking.
The key is to appear as a conservative, not a radical. You accuse the existing status quo as being the beneficiaries of the radicals who have distorted the original Fair Plan that you’re trying to restore.
- Michael Hudson, The Delphic Oracle Was Their Davos: A Four-Part Interview With Michael Hudson About His Forthcoming Book The Collapse of Antiquity (Part 1)
Financialization is an issue that can get even rightwing troglodytes on the same side of the fence as leftists. It is not burdened with the history of labor unions and workers' rights, or with Identity Politics. Its just about money. Everyone has feelings about money.
Everyone who isn't a banker hates the banks. They hate the games banks play with fees. They hate the loan shark level credit card interest rates - even though many do not appreciate how truly extortionate they are. They would be happy to see some of the bankster crooks of 2008 swinging from lampposts. They would love some clawbacks from the arrogant bastards at Goldman Sachs.
So, the left should adopt an anti-financialization program. As fast as I could type, I came up with a thirteen laws I would fight for with this program:
- Ban stock buybacks, return to pre-1983 rules.
- Regulate derivatives.
- Reinstitute Glass Steagel separation between investment and commercial banking.
- Ban HIgh Frequency Trading (HFT), and prosecute the crooks running this criminal "digital front-running" activity.
- Put a cap of 200% of the value purchased on the total payment to credit card companies.
- Tie credit card interest rates to within a few percent of the prime rate
- Let student loan holders declare bankruptcy.
- Rewrite student loans to the prime rate, not 7-9%.
- Forgive odious (clearly unrepayable) medical debt and collection thereof.(e.g., $30k for a broken arm. $1,000 for a few stitches.)
- Ban payday loans. Prosecute them as loan sharks.
- Make banks take haircuts on bad loans, instead of supporting them with ZIRP.
- Stop Quantitative Easing (QE). Stop printing money that the banks use to buy up real assets and inflate the stock market.
- Introduce public banks! Stop letting private banks collect the interest on government loans and refuse to loan to local businesses and governments.
There is nothing in this list that could not be a party-independent program.
I am much more energized by the thirteen items in this list than I am by all the tedious, IdPol crapola that passes for politics in the Democratic Party. I think this program has a much better chance of attracting voters than the toxic corporatist garbage being pushed by the DNC. I don't need Bernie or Tulsi or AOC to undertake this program. I can challenge Trump's BS about MAGA with this issue.
Is anyone aware of any organization that is already adopting this tactic?
so, I vote for a party-independent program then -
how do I write in that program on a ballot sheet?
Your anti-financialization program list is impressive. I would support it in a New York MInute. You might not need Gabbard or Sanders for this, but they might need that program.
You get party politicos to say they support it and will enact
If you get people behind your program, then the corrupt politicos need your people's votes. They have to promise to vote for your program to get your vote. No more fucking hope and change weasel worded bullshit.
That way, you are a pressure group outside the party instead of a repressed minority within the party.
yes, thanks, I just need some hope
our pressure from the outside is strong enough to make them politician do what we want. The darn thing is, that the better the outside pressure is, the more hope and change weasel wording we get. I just try to not get upset and not be depressed. Gives me all headaches.
Weasel wording is in the genome of politicians
But I think the public has had it after Obama's bullshit act. Trump has still got his followers hypnotized, I must say, and the Dem opposition is reinforcing his act.
To succeed, people have to see politicians actually thrown out of office for massive lying.
I do share your concern, which is why I support a program instead of people. No matter how many liars fail you, the program remains intact, and continues to try to assemble a majority of honest people to enact it.
It's a good list
Who ever thought Norquist would be a good example?
Yes. A pledge of some sort.
I think you've got it.
This looks like a winner. You're right Arendt, we need issues that transcend the old left-right dichotomy. With all the bs the pols have used, those differences don't work anyway. I think you're right that we need a whole new focus. I never thought of just becoming a pressure group. The problem seems to be finding an existing group or, more likely, groups that will pick it up. Bernie single-handedly brought Medicare for all into the spotlight so there is hope. I see no reason that these issues can't be handled the same way.
Have you written to Michael Hudson to see if he has any ideas? I'm sure he's approachable. I don't have influential friends, but I know a couple of people who do. I'll check.
-Greed is not a virtue.
-Socialism: the radical idea of sharing.
-Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
John F. Kennedy, In a speech at the White House, 1962
Thanks for the support
There is a lot of Michael Hudson in my thinking. I read everything that gets posted online by him. I can't find his books in any bookstore (and will not put my book purchases into the great digital panopticon); not even the Harvard and MIT Coops. And he does work at Harvard.
I would not think to approach him with my little thought. I figure he already has thought past the ideas in this essay. He and David Graber talk a lot. I really need to check the internet (assuming that Hudson is not yet a non-person) to find out when and where he speaks and what projects (beyond finishing his trilogy) he is working on.
Other people to contact would be William Lazonik who was awarded best article in the Harvard Business Review a few years ago for his reporting on stock buybacks. Then there is Ellen Brown and her work on Public Banking.
In general, I would be more likely to join something than start something. But, please don't let me stop you from contacting folks you know.
good essay - thought provoking n/t ;)
At the pure vision level
....I believe you've threaded the needle with returning finance to the rule of law; laws that benefit and protect the People. As to the mechanism of how to get there, I am not sure. But I would support any movement that opened a path to follow. I always assumed that nationalizing the banks would be necessary for real reform. That's how Iceland got control. And Roosevelt. It is unrealistic to think that the banks can serve the needs of the People while they are near monopolies beholden to their shareholders. They must be immediately broken apart and a period of nationalization would make that possible, while necessary reforms are enacted to reverse our misfortune.
The Financialization issue is outside the duopoly, as you say. Its purpose is to prop up investment markets and deliver money to people who already hold great sums of money. And all the while they produce nothing but debt for society and blight for cities and states. But it does have its weaknesses:
They will be at their weakest point in the early days of the coming crash. I know of no one with plans to close them when that happens, and mark their assets to market — dumping their losses onto shareholders and making the People whole. That would look like Putin securing the 250 year-old home of the Russian Navy in Crimea while the Neocons were busy in Kiev staging a fake revolution.
The political system is what it is because the People are who they are. — Plato
Re: the coming crash
Yes. You are absolutly correct. I believe Naomi Klein has it right. Crises are opportunities for the prepared.
So we need to put this program out there right now as a marker. We need to say something like:
I recently wrote about the crash; but I forgot about that while I was writing this OP.
Tie Insurance In as a Slush Fund.
Cuz we’re not only gonna bail out the banks, but the insurance companies as well.
In fact, I think the banks are not the big bag holders when the music stops.
It’s a great way to get in front of the argument.
This made me think about how I used to sell dog training back in the day, and how I maintain my authority and air of competence while working with “highly unpredictable” dogs.
And there were many crazy situations that happened, but it was easily overcome by shifting criteria a bit within my practical ideology and predictive narration.
“He’ll do this for ten seconds and the lick himself or shake off before lying down.”
And it happens just like that. It’s a tremendously effective method for handling adversity and maintaining control when you actually have little control.
That should be budgeted in to the project. And we all know the tactics coming at us, and we can probably predict the actual faces that will make the move.
“Expect a Chuck Schemer pro-Wall St slush fund love tweet in 5...4...”
“Expect someone (my money’s on Booker - I’ll give you 3:1) to claim “extortion”
Love the focus.
“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu
Insurance - right! The "I" in FIRE.
Most people would be happy to see the health insurers vaporize and be replaced with M4A.
But, I assume you are referring to more obscure (and lucrative) forms of insurance, reinsurance, etc. that are intimately connected with the Wall St. crooks.
Could you please elaborate a little on those people you think will be the "bag holders"? I am at a loss as to who they are, how they are connected to a crash, what scams of theirs should be banned, and where are the assets they have looted in the bubbles, which we could clawback? IOW, more detail please.
I think we're the bag holders.
Insurance giant AIG played a key role in the 2008 meltdown
Ahh, Credit Default Swaps are INSURANCE!
And CDS are underwritten by insurance companies.
Crash time. It's the right time.
Note that it was during an economic crash that both FDR and Iceland got control. However, the next crash will be not only bad, but few people realize they, not bank stockholders are on the hook first. When they do find this out, it will be too late. This factor alone is going to add a degree of nastiness that hasn't been seen since the 1930's. The situation will be ripe for fixing. Sadly, it will also give space for deft and media-savvy fascists to rise. The entire world is saturated with them right now. It's going to be a damn dangerous time, but the 99% have nothing to lose.
As much of the New Deal was based on anti-monopoly tenets, I think good old fashioned trust busting could be added to the bullet point list. I have seen that this also something that is embraced by both left and right.
IMHO, today we don't have trusts, we have de facto monopolies that need to be broken up the same way as trusts were.
There is a financial pattern I am aware of, at least in hitech industries, where there are a handful of companies (1-4) that make huge profits, while the rest of the companies in that industry just eke out a modest living and are always in danger of going under.
For every company in the FAANG, there are a hundred companies that are just medium sized businesses at the mercy of the market. The FAANG are not at the mercy of the market. They manipulate the market.
So, yes, break up the FAANG and reinstate the telephone company regulation that you can be in either the transport business or the product business, but not both. Right now, Amazon is running the Standard Oil/railroad monopoly playbook of destroying the competition with kickback schemes, targetted price wars, favoring one's own goods, and hostile buyouts.
Weaponize the money
flowing into our political system.
Convince the American people to vote for the candidate with the smallest campaign chest.
No matter what the issue, the establishment candidates will promise whatever we want to hear, but flip as soon as they are elected.
Vote for the plumber, the barrista, the street sweeper. Kind of a left-handed term limits.
IMHO, it's the only way.
Neither Russia nor China is our enemy.
Neither Iran nor Venezuela are threatening America.
Cuba is a dead horse, stop beating it.
I strongly agree with everything you've stated.
Three solutions to more than a few of your line item goals:
1.) Ban nationally-chartered bank PREEMPTION laws.
2.) Eliminate all taxpayer/government liability for bank failures (keep the F.D.I.C.), fraud, other/general violations of the law, derivatives losses, in-house trading (dark pools, etc.), and disallow banking industry liability credits for anything other than cash compensation. If the banks want to play around with "their money" the losses are theirs, as well.
3.) Restore Glass-Steagall.
"Freedom is something that dies unless it's used." --Hunter S. Thompson
Thanks, and may I ask for a clarification?
Do you mean the thirteen point program, or the entire article's despair about conventional party politics?
I ask because I know you are very politically savvy. Are you saying that even someone as sophisticated and involved as yourself is fed up with the circus that passes for democracy here?
How is this Rx different from Warren's economic platform?
Is there anything from that list that either Bernie or Warren wouldn't support? Or Tulsi?
I'm talking about either/both the arendt and bobswern lists.
To be honest, I don't know
I suspect that none of them would be as direct and categorical about the banning of crooked financial practices and the indictment of and asset recovery from the financial crooks. As politicians first, they would probably "bury the lead" in a bunch of weasel wording.
Of course there is nothing wrong with those folks, or even GOP politicians, signing on with this program.
As I said, I am pretty much done with celebrities, saviors, and inside-the-beltway deal makers. Its about the program, not about the person.
I'll take a look at Warren's website. I had sort of given up finding anything of substance on political websites; but I will look.
Pretty. Pretty Direct and Categorical
'You're damn right' health insurance companies should be eliminated
All well and good, and part of M4A.
I'm trying to keep the focus on financialization - the manipulation of markets, currencies, futures markets in commodities - for the benefit of the 0.01%.
Once again, as I objected to AOC dragging racism into the environmental debate, I do not want to drag national health insurance into a debate about financialization. Health insurance is a different and very complex scam, involving Big Pharma and the whole issue of national health coverage. Health insurers aren't manipulating currency, they are simply chiseling everyone everyday.
Let them be two separate issues. Because there are a lot of GOPers in the "socialized medicine" looney bin ("keep your government hands off my Medicare" - DUH), and I don't want to lose their hatred of financialization.
Well, if you can gather a critical mass of supporters. . .
I don't want you to vote for me...
I want you to sign the pledge (yet to be written) to vote for people who will dismantle financialization and return this country to something resembling an honest economy.
Let me know when . . .
. . . . you get 65,000 signatures from at least 20 states.
But again, my doomsday clock requires that it happen before March 3, 2020.
Otherwise, I'll just vote for Bernie and let it go at that.
I don't know what you are on about
Vote for Bernie, don't vote for Bernie. No skin off my nose.
I'm not interested in horse race politics, just politicos who will take a public pledge to support the program.
I see zero urgency when its 19 months to the 2020 election.
I've explained my sense of urgency. . . .
. . . several times before here. My spiel was likened by some to the sos spewed by the DNC crowd. It seemed someone even likened me to a Brockbot. But I never made that kind of argument before this year. And I'm certainly no ally of the DNC. But I'm not interested in regaining the cathartic feeling again in going over and over my argument.
Hey it looks like Mike Gravel filed and is soliciting $1 donations towards the $65,000 requirement. I bet he gets there faster and maybe even before Tulsi. I'm fine with both on the debate stage (as long as they wind up throwing their support to Bernie if and when it's needed) although I much appreciate dkmich's skepticism in this regard. We'll see.
How about accountability of the Federal Reserve to the public
via independent auditors and elected officials, and not just this buddy-buddy relationship with the bankers they’re supposed to be regulating, who in actual fact hold key seats on the New York Fed’s board?
The Fed...I must check what the MMTers say about it.
Good point to add to my list, but I need to do some research.
It seems that all the points being made here
repeal Glass-Seagall, etc.etc.etc.
WS/FED needs to go they bring nothing to the table that helps
people other than themselves, nationalize all the banks
"It is an American disease. Redefining words to browbeat
opponents in the absence of evidence."
It appears you're talking about organizing
an independent movement of people outside the unrepresentative election process for the purpose of making demands to the unrepresentatives to enact preferred policies. Kind of like a petition, if enough people sign it that would supposedly pressure the politicians. While I could debate the issues of financialization (I would vote for going much further) the ultimate problem lies in how those demands can be met. During Occupy there were many lists of demands going around including some of those you've included in the above essay. But there was never a chance of any of them being enacted under this political system controlled by the rich.
So it seems to me the first task of such an independent movement would be to demand democracy. All these demands are nice but the duopoly will not enact them as Occupy showed and as is being illustrated in France now. Unless we can find a way to change our political system so it actually represents the people, there's no chance in hell we'll get any of this or a nationalized health care system, improvement in social security, and an end to US imperialism. And whether we do those things should be up to all the people, not just some independent organization of people demanding it. Personally, I favor an independent movement demanding democracy similar to how the yellow vest movement in France has evolved.
Yes. But movements need issues.
To me, "democracy" is a vague issue. What exactly does it mean? How would it look if we had it? How do I explain to Joe Sixpack how it is different from the "one rigged election every two years" circus we have today?
OTOH, financialization is a very clear issue, an issue with clear villains and clear remedies, an issue that touches everyone's life in this hideous Pottersville we call our country. The issue suggests remedies, i.e., laws, regulations, breakups.
We agree that organizing has to come before genuine democracy (something we haven't had, ever). I just think that a concrete issue (financialization) is an easier sell than an abstract issue (democracy). I think "democracy" is too easily subverted into "freedom", and we've all taken that Libertarian ride for decadews.
To me, the first task is to organize around financialization. Isn't that, in some way, what the YV have done? I mean, the French laws have been changed in ways that impoverish the middle class. The gas tax was just the proverbial straw for a financially stressed populace.
I think by getting this program in front of the public today, before the inevitable financial crash, we innoculate the public against another raid on the Treasury, and we raise people's awareness of how undemocratic the current situation is. (One set of rules for Jeff Bezos, a different one for Jeff Nobody.)
I do appreciate your input and am open to further discussion. Thanks for your comment.
From what I've learned,
We are on the same page
Yes. But it did have to evolve. It had to begin from somewhere. Starting at "direct democracy" would not have worked.
Yes, and we got to this discussion because parties have been compromised.
Have you ever heard of The Iron Law of Oligarchy? It was proposed in 1911 by a German sociologist, Robert Michels. Michels later migrated to Italy and joined Mussolini's fascists.
That last paragraph sure sounds like the DNC to me.
This critique is very pessimistic. There are very few historical counterexamples. The wikipedia article discusses one - the International Typesetters Union.
Anyway, once you get up to the abstraction level of "democracy" and the size of a nation, crap like this Iron Law starts to pop up. People are going to have to come up with technical fixes to parties and their bureaucracies, or we are just going to run in this circle until TPTB start WW3 and/or destroy the ecosphere.
Time to bring the pigs and their ilk to the headsman's block
and start chopping. It's what they deserve for their crimes.
Modern education is little more than toeing the line for the capitalist pigs.
Guerrilla Liberalism won't liberate the US or the world from the iron fist of capital.
How do you beat it? Patiently.
Like any great endeavor, those that dream of it may not live to see its fruition. It will take long, hard work. There will be setbacks. There will be discouragement. There will be opposition.
I started by killing my TV. It's amazing how much hold the MSM loses once you do that. I honestly have not seen a new film in YEARS. Last one I saw was... hmmm... thinking... Moana, and I saw that because my kids wanted to go. Overall... meh. As far as the streaming services, I'm amazed how many times I'll start a show, go... meh... and turn it off. I no longer NEED the background noise. In fact I find it gets in the way of my thoughts and dreams.
I can't change the world by screaming at it. I can only change the world through my actions. Part of creating better actions, IMHO, is opening the doors of possibility, which are often lost in the electric signs that point the way towards business as usual.
I do not pretend I know what I do not know.
The media has become almost completely toxic
The Russiagate nonsense is the biggest lunacy so far. But there is the incessant product placement of IdPol people and IdPol issues. Did you know there is now an "International Transgendered Day"? Transgendered bathrooms, #meToo witch hunts.
When I look at the offerings on Netflix, it seems to be wall to wall violence, or rom-coms for the braindead. The writing in the new series are awful. Just wasted days watching "Hotel Beau Sejour", which gets good ratings. It was a modern ghost story, but the way the ghost worked was inconsistent, never explained, and stupid. The ending was so bad that they needed a five minute flashback to sort things out.
Sorry, just venting. Should be doing something in the real world.
Heh, One of the great things about my own creations...
I mean, I'm certain that nobody in Hollywood or the MSM will ever want to actually create an epic orchestral blacksmithing show complete with choir, actual demonstration during the event, complete with the dramatic bits, and the finished product raffled off to the audience as a memento of the event... (I'd Pay to see that. A LOT, actually, but there's no way in hell they'd even think of it. Too much WORK involved, when it would be so much easier to do via CGI...)
Sorry, Random PUI comment, but I was feeling creative this morning.
I do not pretend I know what I do not know.
I got to be honest
That's a good idea.
Excellent essay, arendt. Wish I had more time to dig in here.
But I don't.
The Hudson quote has given me pause and made me reflect, the idea about re-framing some of the issues, especially economic, as conservative instead of radical.
Re-introduce ideas of fairness and equality to fend off all the resentment politics of fear and bigotry that otherwise drive the discussion into a ditch.
When all political discussion is stripped of its divisive partisanship framework people are much more apt to listen and challenge themselves about from where their predispositions derive.
"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
- Kurt Vonnegut