Monthly Archives: April 2012

Size Isn’t Everything

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, commented last week at a campaign event: “With Obamacare fully installed, government will come to control half the economy, and we will have effectively ceased to be a free-enterprise society.”

The LA Times’ Doyle McManus asked the Romney campaign to explain the candidate’s comment and was told:

In 2010, government expenditures for all purposes — federal, state and local, including Social Security benefits — amounted to about 38% of the U.S. economy.

By 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services project that government spending on healthcare, currently about 8% of GDP, will grow to about 10% — partly because of Obamacare’s coverage for some of the uninsured but also thanks to baby boomers signing up for Medicare.

So that’s an increase of 2%. Add it to 38%, and you’ve got a projection that by 2020, government spending will come to about 40% of the economy.

At this point, the Romney campaign indulges in what (depending on your taste) you might call a magic trick, a redefinition or just a subterfuge: It adds in all projected private spending on healthcare in 2020 — private health insurance, physician and hospital bills — to declare another 10% of the economy government-controlled.

“If we count that as under federal control, we get to 50%,” a Romney aide emailed me.

In the Introduction of my book Never Allow A Crisis To Go To Waste, I noted that the favorite GOP argument for why Barack Obama was a socialist is that he spent a lot of money. Both former Speaker Newt Gingrich and current Senator Jim DeMint advanced this argument at one time or another and Mitt Romney appears to be adopting it.

Unfortunately, the argument has no merit. While socialist governments are invariably large, not all large governments are socialist.

Socialism is the government directing the economy to redistribute wealth from those who create it to those the government prefers.

Obamacare itself is a faithful application of German Zwangswirthsaft socialism where the government leaves business in nominal private ownership, but abuses the government’s regulatory, taxing and spending power to achieve the socialist goals of affirmatively directing health insurance to redistribute wealth.

Obamacare’s socialist inefficiencies are likely to cost health insurance consumers a great deal more money than the program will cost taxpayers.

If GOP candidates are going to convince the citizenry that Mr. Obama is a socialist advancing socialist programs, the Republicans themselves need to understand the nuts and bolts of the ideology.


Communist Party USA: Driving With Obama Down ‘The Road To Socialism’

In 2008, the Obama campaign performed yeoman work airbrushing away the years of patronage and support the Democrataic Socialists of America (DSA), the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and various other socialist groups provided Barack Obama’s political career for well over a decade. In 2008, the CPUSA briefly posted its endorsement of Barack Obama for President, gushing:

A broad multiclass, multiracial movement is converging around Obama’s “Hope, change and unity” campaign because they see in it the thrilling opportunity to end 30 years of ultra-right rule and move our nation forward with a broadly progressive agenda.

This diverse movement combines a variety of political currents and aims in a working coalition that is crucial to social progress at this point….

The struggle to defeat the ultra-right and turn our country on a positive path will not end with Obama’s election. But that step will shift the ground for successful struggles going forward.

If you followed the link, you will notice that it currently states: “Page Not Found.” This is because, after the conservative blogosphere started publishing the link, the CPUSA immediately removed the post to protect Candidate Obama’s carefully scripted image as an apolitical moderate.

Last weekend, CPUSA held its annual National Members Conference in New York City and called for communists to enter into a broad alliance with Democrat and even Republican progressives and moderates to protect the progress made under Obama from the fascist conservatives and continue to make progress along “the road to socialism.”

CPUSA national chairperson, Sam Webb, offered a revealing keynote speech, describing a new communist strategy of incremental revolution:

In its formative period, the world communist movement had a disdainful attitude towards transitional forms and stages. The struggle for socialism was direct and compressed in time. It was damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

The operative slogans were “class against class,” and “No Retreat, No Surrender.”

But things didn’t work out the way that those young militants believed. Revolution gave way to counterrevolution.

In the aftermath of this upheaval in the early 1920s, Lenin argued that the revolutionary process would stretch out over time and go through different stages, with distinct strategic tasks specific to each stage.

He further argued that the new communist parties must search for forms of transition to socialism, springing from a sober estimation of the level of class consciousness and the balance of class and social forces at a particular moment.

Asking rhetorically “So where do we stand now? What is the path to socialism? What is our overall strategy?,” Webb calls for an alliance with Obama and the Democratic Party:

With the foregoing in mind, let me outline the main stages of struggle as our new program envisions them.

The first is the struggle against right wing extremism. This is not a new policy; it goes back to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. At that point and since then it became evident that the main obstacle to social progress remains rightwing extremism and its corporate backers. They cast a reactionary shadow over the whole political process then and now.

The election of Barack Obama was a blow to the right, but subsequent events have demonstrated that it wasn’t a decisive blow.

The right still retains considerable power, and initiative to frame the debate and disrupt the legislative and political agenda.

Its overarching goal this year is to regain control of all three branches of the federal government. How dangerous is that? In my view it would set the stage for a period of extreme rightwing onslaught…

By contrast, the decisive defeat of the right would weaken Wall Street and the entire corporate class, give leverage and momentum to the people’s movement and clear the ground for an era that puts people and nature before profits and “free markets.”

But that will happen only if an electoral coalition is assembled that includes the left, progressives, independents and moderates.

Said differently and dialectically, the defeat of the right at the polls next year cannot be achieved on a pure anti-corporate basis, given the existing relationship of forces. The 99 per cent versus the 1 per cent is a good slogan and representation of economic reality, but it doesn’t reflect the actual political balance of forces on the ground at this moment.

The political complexion of the country is more complicated, thus making a broader strategy that reaches out to moderates (Republican as well as Democrats) and independents necessary…

None of this is to suggest that the Democrats aren’t now or won’t be in the future an obstacle to progressive change; in too many instances they are, but they aren’t the main obstacle for the moment.

This election, then, is not about choosing a lesser evil. It is about our nation’s future: are we going to move in a progressive-democratic or rightwing anti-democratic-authoritarian direction (I distinguish this characterization from fascism which has a particular meaning – the open terroristic dictatorship of the most backward sections of the capitalist class – in the communist movement)…

Not everyone shares this view. Some think the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans. Others go further and say that the Democrats are worse because they create popular illusions that change is possible within the two-party system. Still others say the electoral process is so compromised by corporate money that participating in it is a fool’s errand. And finally there are advocates of running a third-party presidential candidate in this election.

I can understand these sentiments, but only up to a point. Like it or not, millions go to the polls in spite of their misgivings. They are invested in the electoral process. Voting is a sacred duty. And the Democratic Party is the vehicle of reform for tens of millions, the majority of whom are working and oppressed people.

What is more, labor will throw itself into the campaign to elect Democrats, moderate as well as progressive, albeit from its own organizational base. Four hundred thousand campaign volunteers are going to walk neighborhoods this fall.

Much the same can be said about the racially oppressed. Ditto women and seniors. The majority of youth will also take part in the elections, and like four years ago on the side of President Obama and the Democrats.

A third-party presidential candidate would only help the extreme right as well as isolate the left from the broader movement.

The two parties of the capitalist class have similarities. That is undeniable. But differences also exist at the level of social composition and political policies – policies that can be widened under the impact of a powerful people’s movement, as they were in earlier historical periods.

The past three years have been frustrating to be sure; much the same could be said about the past three decades. But frustration and impatience are a poor excuse for a strategic and tactical policy in relation to the coming elections and politics generally.

Only a very sober and objective analysis should guide our thinking and actions. It is easy to imagine any number of electoral strategies, but the question is: which one is rooted in objective realities and advances class and democratic struggles? Which one positions the popular forces to go on the offensive in the post-election period? Which outcome will clear the ground of neoliberal polices and debris? Which one will weaken the corporate class as a whole?

To skip over the current stage in the name of militant radicalism may feel revolutionary, but in the end it is self-defeating and strategically misguided.

CPUSA executive vice chair, Jarvis Tyner, gave more direct voice to the fear that, if the voters give the government to the conservatives, all the socialist progress of the Obama administration will be lost:

These right-wing nut jobs need to understand, we are not going back. If Obama is elected, of course there will be a struggle; a struggle that the democratic forces could win, I would say. If he is defeated, the movement will suffer a big setback and the country will be pushed backwards.

In my book Never Allow A Crisis To Go To Waste, I described how the Democratic Socialists of America adopted a policy of running socialists as Democrats to realign the Democratic Party to the left along the lines of a Euro-socialist party. Apparently, the CPUSA now sees the Democrats as at least a partially socialist party well worth entering into an alliance to complete America’s journey down the road of socialism.


The Geek Rule

In their insatiable search for inequality and unfairness, the inimitable Huffington Post has discovered that college graduates with engineering and math degrees earn more than say those with largely unmarketable sociology and english degrees:

As a result, wage inequality between college majors is growing. The median salary of math, science, and computer science majors’ first jobs rose 5 times as quickly as the median salary of humanities and science majors’ first jobs in 2012, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

And workers that start out at a lower salary will likely be making less money for the rest of their lives. Workers that majored in math, economics, biology, and engineering make between $40 and $51 per hour on average in 2012, according to a separate Wall Street Journal report that analyzes a recent economics paper by Yale University economists. Workers that majored in nearly anything else make less than $40 per hour on average. For example, economics graduates make twice as much as social work graduates on average.

I see an opening for the Obama reelection campaign here.

President Obama’s Buffet rule proposal to require millionaires to pay a minimum 30% tax on income and capital gains because it is unfair that the top 1% of earners only pay 28% of the government’s bills has certainly hit a chord with the American people – or at least those people who occupy Dem media news rooms.

Mr. Obama could expand his war on inequality by proposing to raise the taxes of engineers and mathematicians and spread the wealth around to the underprivileged with sociology and english degrees burdened with Ivy League college loans and only able to find jobs at McDonalds or temporary gigs at Occupy Wall Street squatter camps.

Call it the Geek Rule.


An Excel­lent Primer On Obama’s Social­ist Polit­i­cal Phi­los­o­phy

The author of the new political thriller The Eagle Has Crashed and the publisher of the always interesting The Country Thinker blog, Ted Lacksonen was kind enough take the time out of his busy schedule promoting his own novel to review Never Allow A Crisis To Go To Waste:

Sum­mon­ing the famous quote from for­mer white House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Bart DePalma’s recently released book Never Allow a Cri­sis to Go to Waste: Barack Obama and the Evo­lu­tion of Amer­i­can Social­ism is an explo­ration of the devel­op­ment and cur­rent state of social­ism in Amer­ica, as well as a pow­er­ful argu­ment that the pres­i­dent of the United States is in fact a social­ist. As the title sug­gests, DePalma clas­si­fies Obama as a social­ist, the protes­ta­tions to the con­trary through­out the media notwithstanding.

Like any lawyer, DePalma knows that the def­i­n­i­tions mean every­thing in lan­guage, so he first had to define the term “social­ism” before draw­ing his conclusion—a tricky process he com­pares to “herd­ing cats.” He makes a dis­tinc­tion between “clas­si­cal social­ism” and its newer incar­na­tion “asym­met­ric social­ism.” The lat­ter had its ori­gins in the writ­ings of social­ist writ­ers such as Andre Gorz, and it rep­re­sents the pre­dom­i­nant gov­ern­ing style of the Obama admin­is­tra­tion. Any dis­pute as to whether Obama is a social­ist turns on whether “asym­met­ric social­ism” is social­ism, as DePalma con­vinc­ingly makes the case that the pres­i­dent is a social­ist of this stripe.

All in all Never Allow a Cri­sis to Go to Waste is an excel­lent primer on Obama’s social­ist polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy. It is extra­or­di­nar­ily well-​​researched, and any­one active in present-​​day pol­i­tics would be well-​​served to read it…

Never Allow a Cri­sis to Go to Waste is a book for the polit­i­cally active to read and under­stand, and ulti­mately, to buy a copy for their friends an neigh­bors who have fallen for the media’s claim that Obama is a cen­trist or run-​​of-​​the-​​mill liberal.

Please go to the link above to read all of Mr. Lacksonen’s lengthy review.


The Rise Of Asymmetric Socialism

Andrew S. Rogers is an Amazon Vine Voice, top 1000 ranked consumer book reviewer and self described free-market anarchist.

Mr. Rogers was kind enough take the time to offer an in-depth review of Never Allow A Crisis To Go To Waste for Amazon:

“Socialist,” like “fascist,” has become a political smear-word for labeling (or libeling) ideological opponents. It’s critical to recognize, therefore, that Bart DePalma’s excellent “Never Allow a Crisis to Go to Waste” is emphatically not a rightwing screed in which “socialism” is code for “anything I don’t like” and “socialist” means “anyone who disagrees with me.” Instead, it is a legitimate, honest, non-polemical, and well-sourced review of the philosophical and economic theories that have come to flower in the policies and tactics of the Barack Obama administration…

The other reason “Never Allow…” is a superior book is the thoroughly documented history the author brings to the table. While Olson’s analysis emphasized Alinsky, DePalma goes back further to thinkers and strategists like Andre Gorz, Peter Dreier, Walter Rathenau, and Michael Harrington to trace the specific influences that influenced The Man for the Season (chapter 4 title), Barack Obama. It’s here where DePalma’s extensive documentation is most impressive: 35 pages of small-type notes and citations source well-selected quotations from the self-described socialists’ own writings. They make it clear how, with specific application to the auto company bailouts, health care, and “green jobs,” Obama is following an explicitly socialist playbook…

[T]o get a handle on the importance, the threat, and the implications of Barack Obama’s “asymmetric socialism,” “Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste” is essential reading. It deserves a very wide audience.

Please go to the link above to read all of Mr. Rogers’ review.


Breakeven Socialism

This week, the New York Times offered the key data points for car buyers considering the choice between the Government Motors’ battery car – the Chevy Volt – and your run-of-the-mill fuel efficient gas-powered car:

The [Chevy] Volt, which cost nearly $40,000 before a $7,500 federal tax credit, could take up to 27 years to pay off versus a Chevrolet Cruze, assuming it was regularly driven farther than its battery-only range allows. The payback time could drop to about eight years if gas cost $5 a gallon and the driver remained exclusively on battery power.

The Lundberg Survey, which tracks fuel prices, said in March that gas prices would need to reach $12.50 a gallon for the Volt to make sense purely on financial terms.

Barack Obama driving the flagship car of his new Government Motors.

Of course, these calculations do not include the fact that you will need to replace the $25,000 battery pack long before you would reach break even on the cost of the original car. Ah, the unintended consequences of socialism.


Comprehends The Scale Of Change Wrought By Obama

A former Special Assistant for Foreign Affairs in the Department of Defense from 1986 to 1988 and California State Assemblyman from 2004 to 2010, Chuck DeVore has moved to Texas to accept the position of Senior Visiting Scholar for Fiscal Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Mr. DeVore generously took the time from his very busy schedule to read Never Allow A Crisis To Go To Waste on the plane during business trips and then pen a most kind and informative review for Amazon, observing:

Bart DePalma’s “Never Allow a Crisis To Go To Waste,” is named after the unintentionally illuminating post-election comments of President Obama’s then chief-of-staff, Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago mayor. Emanuel was referring to the opportunity Obama had to remake America, as he said immediately following, crises, “…are opportunities to do big things.”

Just what those “big things” are DePalma explores in gripping detail, taking the reader through the history of the President’s mentors, from socialist goals, both hidden and open, and methods, both violent and working within “the system.”…

DePalma’s litany of Obama administration actions is astonishing when set out in a methodical manner. So much was happening in the U.S. in late 2008 through the 2010 elections that it was very hard for most Americans to fully comprehend the scale of change wrought by Obama and his allies in Congress.

Please go to the link above to read all of Mr. DeVore’s review.


The Myth Of War Socialism

Perhaps the most persistent and pernicious myth of economics is that the government can create a recovery in the private economy by taking over the economy, borrowing massive amounts of money and spending it drafting soldiers and building war materials. The Germans called this Zwangswirtshaft or “war socialism.” Economist and New York Times op-ed writer Paul Krugman likes to claim that the Keynesian “stimulus” of massive war spending during WWII pulled us out of the Great Depression.

The argument that rationing goods and services to the citizenry and borrowing more than the GDP to finance slaughtering a quarter million Americans and destroying billions of dollars of gross domestic product in war materials on battlefields across the world is an economic plan we should emulate is morally obscene and factually wrong. In fact, WWII deepened and prolonged the Great Depression and the American private economy did not full recover until the late 1940s.

In a long overdue article for the Weekly Standard entitled “The Ultimate Stimulus,” Arthur Herman notes:

* Under Keynesian economic theory, for every $1.00 the government borrows and spends, the GDP is supposed to grow by $1.50 or more. During WWII, the United States GDP grew less than the increase in military purchases because the private economy was forced into a recession to redirect production to build war goods.

* The over twenty million men and women drafted into the armed services produced nothing of value to the economy and instead were paid with borrowed money to destroy war goods bought with borrowed money to lay waste to the economies of former trading partners.

* It was only after our nearly insolvent government sharply reduced government spending after WWII that the American private GDP rebounded and absorbed over 10 million new workers returning from military service. Under Keynesian theory, the reduction of government borrowing and spending should have slowed down economic growth and increased unemployment.

* Keynesians have theorized that post-WWII economic growth was driven by Americans spending their wartime savings. In fact, savings increased from $151 billion in 1945 to $168.5 billion in 1948 as the “Greatest Generation” scarred by a 16 year depression socked away money against the return of that long rainy day.

Government borrowing and spending used to direct the economy did not create economic growth during wartime and is not doing so today.


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