We Are All Socialists [NO, WE'RE NOT!!]
Jon Meacham and Evan Thomas
From the magazine issue dated Feb 16, 2009
In many ways our economy already resembles a European one. As boomers age and spending grows, we will become even more French.
[Signes de remise de Français!!!//Singes mangeurs de fromage!!]
The interview was nearly over. on the Fox News Channel last Wednesday evening, Sean Hannity was coming to the end of a segment with Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, the chair of the House Republican Conference and a vociferous foe of President Obama's nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill. How, Pence had asked rhetorically, was $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts going to put people back to work in Indiana? How would $20 million for "fish passage barriers" (a provision to pay for the removal of barriers in rivers and streams so that fish could migrate freely) help create jobs? Hannity could not have agreed more. "It is … the European Socialist Act of 2009," the host said, signing off. "We're counting on you to stop it. Thank you, congressman."
There it was, just before the commercial: the S word, a favorite among conservatives since John McCain began using it during the presidential campaign. (Remember Joe the Plumber? Sadly, so do we.) But it seems strangely beside the point. The U.S. government has already—under a conservative Republican administration—effectively nationalized the banking and mortgage industries. That seems a stronger sign of socialism than $50 million for art. Whether we want to admit it or not—and many, especially Congressman Pence and Hannity, do not—the America of 2009 is moving toward a modern European state.
We remain a center-right nation in many ways—particularly culturally, and our instinct, once the crisis passes, will be to try to revert to a more free-market style of capitalism—but it was, again, under a conservative GOP administration that we enacted the largest expansion of the welfare state in 30 years: prescription drugs for the elderly. People on the right and the left want government to invest in alternative energies in order to break our addiction to foreign oil. And it is unlikely that even the reddest of states will decline federal money for infrastructural improvements.
If we fail to acknowledge the reality of the growing role of government in the economy, insisting instead on fighting 21st-century wars with 20th-century terms and tactics, then we are doomed to a fractious and unedifying debate. The sooner we understand where we truly stand, the sooner we can think more clearly about how to use government in today's world.
[THE U.S. GOVERNMENT WAS STRUCTURED NOT FOR EFFICIENCY AND KUMBAYA POLITICAL CONSENSUS OR CORRECTNESS. IT WAS STRUCTURED PRECISELY FOR DEBATE. THE LIBERAL MEDIA ELITE ARE DOING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE A DISSERVICE BY INTENTIONALLY MISREPRESENTING THE HISTORICAL PURPOSE OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND OUR STRUCTURE OF GOVERNMENT. SORRY, PRESIDENT OBAMA AND 111TH CONGRESS. YOU CAN JUST WIPE OUT OVER TWO CENTURIES OF HISTORY JUST TO SUIT YOUR SOCIALIST POLITICAL AGENDA!!]
As the Obama administration presses the largest fiscal bill in American history, caps the salaries of executives at institutions receiving federal aid at $500,000 and introduces a new plan to rescue the banking industry, the unemployment rate is at its highest in 16 years. The Dow has slumped to 1998 levels, and last year mortgage foreclosures rose 81 percent.
[OBAMA'S DECISION TO CAP THE SALARIES OF EXECUTIVES IN COMPANIES THAT RECEIVE FUNDS FROM THE 'TARP' MAKES SENSE INSOFAR AS THE EXECUTIVES ARE RECEIVING A GRANT OF TAXPAYER FUNDS TO RESOLVE A PROBLEM FOR WHICH THE EXECUTIVES WERE PARTIALLY RESPONSIBLE. THESE FUNDS SHOULD NOT BE 'MISAPPROPRIATED' OR OTHERWISE 'MISUSED' OR 'WASTED' (THREE LEGAL TERMS OF ART') FOR PERSONAL GAIN AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE. DEAR NEWSWEEK. LET'S GET IT STRAIGHT!]
All of this is unfolding in an economy that can no longer be understood, even in passing, as the Great Society vs. the Gipper. Whether we like it or not—or even whether many people have thought much about it or not—the numbers clearly suggest that we are headed in a more European direction.
[THIS IS NOT A FOREGONE CONCLUSION. ONLY LIBERAL PROGRESSIVES WHO WISH TO REESTABLISH THEIR SOCIALIST 'SOLIDARITY BONDS' WITH THEIR EUROPEAN COUSINS SEEK THIS RESULT. IT IS EERILY REMINISCENT OF THE 1930'S. AMERICANS TODAY MUST BE SAAVY TO THIS AND RECOGNIZE THE INACCURATE PORTRAYAL OF AMERICA FOR POLITICAL & DIPLOMACY PURPOSES. NO DOUBT, THE GOVERNMENTS OF EUROPE ARE BEHIND THIS MARKETING EFFORT.]
A decade ago U.S. government spending was 34.3 percent of GDP, compared with 48.2 percent in the euro zone—a roughly 14-point gap, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2010 U.S. spending is expected to be 39.9 percent of GDP, compared with 47.1 percent in the euro zone—a gap of less than 8 points. As entitlement spending rises over the next decade, we will become even more French.
This is not to say that berets will be all the rage this spring, or that Obama has promised a croissant in every toaster oven.
[HOW ABOUT AN EXTRA 'TRICK OR TREAT' IN EVERY JACK-O-LANTERN???]
But the simple fact of the matter is that the political conversation, which shifts from time to time, has shifted anew, and for the foreseeable future Americans will be more engaged with questions about how to manage a mixed economy than about whether we should have one.
The architect of this new era of big government? History has a sense of humor, for the man who laid the foundations for the world Obama now rules is George W. Bush, who moved to bail out the financial sector last autumn with $700 billion.
[See: Mission Accomplished: Bush Administration Delivers American Sovereignty on a Silver Platter to Socialist Europe, ITSSD Journal on Political Surrealism, at: http://itssdjournalpoliticalsurrealism.blogspot.com/2008/11/mission-accomplished-bush.html ].
Bush brought the Age of Reagan to a close; now Obama has gone further, reversing Bill Clinton's end of big government. The story, as always, is complicated. Polls show that Americans don't trust government and still don't want big government. They do, however, want what government delivers, like health care and national defense and, now, protections from banking and housing failure. During the roughly three decades since Reagan made big government the enemy and "liberal" an epithet, government did not shrink. It grew. But the economy grew just as fast, so government as a percentage of GDP remained about the same. Much of that economic growth was real, but for the past five years or so, it has borne a suspicious resemblance to Bernie Madoff's stock fund. Americans have been living high on borrowed money (the savings rate dropped from 7.6 percent in 1992 to less than zero in 2005) while financiers built castles in the air.
Now comes the reckoning. The answer may indeed be more government. In the short run, since neither consumers nor business is likely to do it, the government will have to stimulate the economy. And in the long run, an aging population and global warming and higher energy costs will demand more government taxing and spending. The catch is that more government intrusion in the economy will almost surely limit growth (as it has in Europe, where a big welfare state has caused chronic high unemployment). Growth has always been America's birthright and saving grace.
The Obama administration is caught in a paradox. It must borrow and spend to fix a crisis created by too much borrowing and spending. Having pumped the economy up with a stimulus, the president will have to cut the growth of entitlement spending by holding down health care and retirement costs and still invest in ways that will produce long-term growth. Obama talks of the need for smart government. To get the balance between America and France right, the new president will need all the smarts he can summon.
[See: Zut Alors! Is Obama More Like a European Socialist or a Nicolas Sarkozy?, ITSSD Journal on Pathological Communalism, at: http://itssdpathologicalcommunalism.blogspot.com/2008/11/zut-alors-is-obama-more-like-european.html ].
[See: Sliding Down the 'Slippery Slope' of 'Soft Socialism', ITSSD Journal on Political Surrealism, at: http://itssdjournalpoliticalsurrealism.blogspot.com/2008/11/sliding-down-slippery-slope-of-soft.html ].
[See: Europe & United Nations Try to Cram Down US Throat Socialist Financial and Environmental Global Governance; Will Bush & Successor Swallow?, ITSSD Journal on Economic Freedom, at: http://itssdeconomicfreedom.blogspot.com/2008/10/europe-un-us-blue-party-cram-down-bush.html].
Obama: Elected on a French Platform
By George Handlery
The Brussels Journal
...9. Our day’s politically successful Left has its roots in the movement of “’68”. As the product of that wave, its roots reach back into a soil that has been critical of authority. In this they share a trait with Conservatives. The difference is that 68 had not only been critical of authority but also attacked all authority as long as it was found to be located in the democratic West. In the praxis of their “struggle”, not every authority had been attacked that exercised power. The target of hostility was, and still is, every institution that is not controlled by the Left. This is why these anti-authoritarians advocate the expansion of state power as son as they gain control of the state. This makes them into selective anti--authoritarians. They preach disobedience toward everything that they or their ideological allies do no dominate. As they do so, they covet might that can be put into their service. A wise distinction because, the projects of radical transformation advocated by the Left are, on the long run, not implementable with the support of voluntary majorities based on consent.
...12. One more thing. You might have been suspecting something like this. Ségolène Royal, the failed Socialist opponent of Sarkozi, has attended Obama’s inauguration. She used the occasion to make an unsurprising statement. In her opinion, Obama was elected on a platform that she had been running on in France.
Socialism Is No Longer a Dirty Word
By André Schiffrin
This article appeared in the December 29, 2008 edition of The Nation
December 10, 2008
John McCain's desperate attempts to smear Obama as a socialist during the last weeks of the campaign because of his defense of progressive income taxes are well behind us. Now that Obama's economic team has been named, primarily from the center-right, the question is more likely to be whether he is still a left-wing Democrat. But the attacks were a sign of how far right the Republicans had gone in questioning a policy long accepted by most Americans. We have forgotten that under that notorious left-winger Dwight D. Eisenhower, the tax on the highest bracket was 90 percent. In recent years tax cuts have been used, very effectively, to redistribute income upward. But "socialist" seemed to work as an epithet, replacing "communist," no longer useful now that Russia and China have become capitalist, and "liberal," now overused.
While Socialist parties still play an important role in Western Europe and, increasingly, in Latin America, they have long disappeared from the American scene. Since the death of Michael Harrington, there has been no acknowledged spokesman. Though Bernie Sanders was elected as a socialist, he has not chosen to forward any socialist alternatives. There is no one around to explain what socialist approaches to the present economic crisis might be, what a platform different from Obama's very careful centrist arguments would be like.
In 1942 a quarter of the population thought that socialism, of the kind that would be elected in nearly all of Western Europe, would be a "good thing." Socialist ideas were so popular that Harry Truman, old-style Democratic machine politician that he was, ran on a platform well to the left of Obama's--or of any of his Democratic successors. He faced important competitors to his left, not only the Socialist Party's Norman Thomas but also the more popular Progressive Party candidate, Henry Wallace. Truman thus argued for a socialized national health insurance plan, for more TVAs as well as more public housing, hospitals and the like. Full employment, not tax cuts, was then the American priority.
Left Socialist Blog
Archive for the ‘European Left’ Category
New Anti-Capitalist Party: Real Politics Emerge.
Now for some real politics: how the NPA will affect the French institutional and electoral scene. This is an interview with Henri Weber (a former leader of the LCR, co-founder of Rouge, passed long ago over to the social democratic wing of the Socialist Party and a MEP). From Le Nouvel Observateur.
Onze partis de gauche, dont le NPA et le PS, ont signé un texte commun pour un “changement de cap” du gouvernement. Quelle peut être la suite de cette initiative ?
Eleven left parties, including the NPA and the Parti Socialiste*, have signed a common declaration calling on the government to change course. What could follow this initiative?
Le PS doit débattre et agir avec la dizaine de partis qui se disent à sa gauche, même s’il est en désaccord avec la plus grande partie de leur programme, tant qu’ils se réclament de la démocratie – ce qui est le cas. PS et extrême-gauche se rejoignent pour dénoncer la politique du gouvernement, au sein des mouvements sociaux, et lors des élections pour battre la droite. Le but final est tout de même de rassembler très largement au-delà de son électorat. C’est une condition nécessaire pour remporter les élections (nécessaire, mais pas suffisante : LCR et LO avaient appelé à voter PS en 2007).Mais cette union de la grande famille de la gauche n’exclut pas la confrontation. Le PS doit apporter des solutions ambitieuses et radicales, dans le nouveau paysage idéologique mondial qui a suivi l’effondrement de Lehman Brothers.
The PS should debate and act in common with these 11 parties, who consider themselves as on the left, even if it disagrees with most of their programme, insofar as they are identify themselves as democratic - which is the case here. The PS and the far left meet each other and work together inside social movements, to denounce the government’s policies, and to beat the Right during elections. The aim (ie of the PS, AC) is to bring together a much wider constituency than its own electorate. It’s a condition of winning elections, (necessary, but not sufficient - LO and the LCR called for a PS vote in 2007). Such a union of the great left family does not rule out differences. The PS should bring forward its own bold and radical solutions - in the new worldwide ideological landscape that followed the Lehman Brothers collapse.
Wary of the perennial efforts of the Parti Socialiste to colonise other left organisations (or eclipse them), the LCR and now the NPA have decided to be resolutely independent. Not that this excludes such joint statements, or actions. These can be placed, obviously, within the movement born during the mobilisation for the January General Strike. As such I suppose the qualify as ‘United Front’ tactics, common action around agreed aims. As such rather more genuine than the British SWP’s who use the term to refer to their deals with the cabals that made up Respect. This united front strategy for the LCR/NPA goes hand-in-hand with demarcating themselves(that is, standing alone, or with very close allies) in electoral politics (such as municipal agreements).
Yet how far should they remain apart? The frontiers appear variable. The LCR have called for votes for other parties, including ‘reformist’ ones, during many elections: in 1995 (when they had no candidate of their own) they recommended no less than three Presidential candidates, Robert Hue (PCF), Arlette Laguillerr (LO) and Dominique Voyant (Greens) ! (here) Now however, the will to strike separately’ is on the ascendent. It appears to extend even to left groups which, while independent, nevertheless have links and electoral agreements (local and often national) with the Socialists. As the extract below indicates.
L’Humanité reports a strained atmosphere at the founding Conference, and the following comments by Christian Picquet (Blog Here) :
Christian Picquet du courant UNIR a dressé un réquisitoire sévère contre la manière dont la direction a piloté la mue de la LCR. « Un tel projet méritait un autre congrès. » Il déplore « l’ambiance morose » dans les comités locaux. Il reproche à la direction de sacrifier le mouvement social, le rassemblement de la gauche vraiment à gauche à des intérêts de parti. Christian Picquet dénonce les « faux prétextes » pour refuser de participer à des listes du front de gauche avec le PCF et le Parti de la gauche aux élections européennes. Il est encore possible de faire un autre choix pour éviter que le premier geste du nouveau parti soit précisément le refus de l’union. « Ce serait la marque du nouveau parti. »
Christian Picquet, of the Unir tendency, laid down a tough judgement on the way in which the LCR leadership has carried out its transformation, “such a project deserves another Conference”, and he deplored the “glum atmosphere” in the local branches. He accused them of sacrificing the unity of the real left and social movements to the interests of the party. Christian Picquet denounced the “false pretexts” used to reject an alliance , the Left Front, with the PCF (Communist Party) and the PG (Left Party) for the European Elections. Though “it is still possible to change this decision and avoid making the first choiceo f the new party a refusal of unity“. Otherwise “that will be the trademark of the new party”.
Anyone doing some elementary electoral arithmetic will know that to get over the 10% qualifying hurdle in the European ballots an agreement is needed if there is to be any reasonable potential for the success of left of PS candidates. Without it, a long stay on Mount Aventine is in store for the NPA.
Added Sunday: On the possibility of an agreement for the European Elections, (Nouvel Observateur) on the Conference (which definitely adopted the NPA name):
Si le texte proposé au congrès affirme aussi le soutien du parti à “un accord durable de toutes les forces qui se réclament de l’anticapitalisme”, cette condition devrait rendre difficile un accord avec le Parti communiste, qui siège avec les socialistes dans les conseils régionaux.
If the Congress’s text asserted that the party would back a firm agreement of all forces which affirm their anti-capitalism, this conditions will make it difficult to make an alliance with the Communist Party, which sits with the Socialists in regional council groups.
Note to NPA: get those warm woolies for the peak-tops ready now!
* Les Alternatifs, la Coordination nationale des collectifs unitaires (CNCU), Lutte Ouvrière, le MRC, le NPA, le PCF, le PCOF, le Parti de gauche, le PS, Alternative Démocratie Socialisme (ADS), Alter-Ekolo. Full declaration here
France’s Socialists: Left and ultra-left
July 3, 2008
A party that ought to be doing better looks for a new leader
THIS should be a fertile time to be a French Socialist. Global capitalism, demon of choice for the French left, is in chaos. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s popularity has collapsed. France is about to rejoin the military command of NATO, seen by the left as a tool of Anglo-Saxon hegemony. And yet the French Socialist Party is busy tearing itself apart.
In November François Hollande, the party leader, is due to step down. Elbowing towards his seat are half a dozen candidates who have been publishing their “contributions” ahead of the party congress. The front-runners are Mr Hollande’s ex-partner and a defeated presidential candidate, Ségolène Royal; Bertrand Delanoë, mayor of Paris; and, in a late surge, Martine Aubry, mayor of Lille and architect of France’s 35-hour week.
Given that the Socialists have lost three presidential elections in a row, some modernising might seem in order. The party has boldly given up a reference to “revolution” in its founding principles. There was a hint of renewal when Mr Delanoë, flush from his Paris re-election in March, called himself “liberal”, a term of abuse inferior in France only to “ultra-liberal”. But he hastily insisted he was “both liberal and socialist” and his liberalism was mostly “political”—eg, backing adoptions by homosexual couples.
Ms Royal’s pitch is an odd mix of old-style socialism (more workers on company boards) and surprising fiscal conservatism (a lone promise not to boost the tax take). In a recent speech to rock-star applause in Paris, she cited Engels and castigated Mr Sarkozy for favouring “the France of Falcon jets”, but called for an open mind over an alliance with the political centre. Farther left sits Ms Aubry, who has support from the teaching and public-sector backbone of the party. Her bid calls for a higher minimum wage and a tax on international capital flows, but also argues in quasi-Blairite tones that “to redistribute wealth, it must first be created”.
As rival leaders grope for a definition of the centre-left, however, a political gap is opening up to their left. One far-left politician has been grabbing attention: Olivier Besancenot, a youthful-looking, T-shirt-wearing postman and former Trotskyite presidential candidate. In a startling recent poll, he was judged “the best opposition to Nicolas Sarkozy”, beating, in order, all the old guard: Mr Delanoë, Ms Royal and Mr Hollande.
Appealing to anti-market hostility in France, the new darling of media talk-shows is launching a “New Anti-Capitalist Party”, to “prepare a radical revolutionary transformation of society” and “the end of capitalism”. Mr Besancenot’s ascent, and ready populist message for troubled times, is starting to worry the Socialists. Needless to say, the right, itself hurt for so long by the far-right National Front, can scarcely conceal its glee.