Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Mike Bloomberg: White Knight With A Tarnished Soul

     A white knight, in business, is a friendly investor who saves a company from a hostile takeover by buying into it heavily themselves. If Bernie Sanders and his political revolution can be thought of as a hostile takeover, then it's clear that the Democratic Party is auditioning Mike Bloomberg for the role of white knight. Sure he used to be a Republican, but that's okay because he was a Democrat before that.

     It's true that Bloomberg was a Democrat before running for Mayor of New York City in 2001, but he ran on the Republican line on the ballot. While in office, he made sure to do right by real estate developers in their neverending quest to extract ever more rent from the urban working class. A piece in the Guardian, written by Adam Gabbatt as Bloomberg was leaving office in December of 2013, is particularly revealing in what it says about his record. You may have recently heard a great deal of discussion of one particular issue, which Bloomberg has now apologized for.

     "Under Bloomberg and his NYPD commissioner, Ray Kelly, there was a vast increase in the number of stop-and-frisks in New York, even though only about 10% of stops result in arrests," Gabbatt writes.

     "When Bloomberg took office in 2002, there were just under 100,000 stops. In 2011 that number had soared to almost 700,000, according to NYPD figures."

     So when Mike Bloomberg said, in his apology, that he inherited Stop-And-Frisk from the Guiliani administration he is engaging in some of what the Orange Troll refers to as "innocent exaggeration." Sure, the cops under the Giuliani Administration conducted 100,000 stop-and-frisks. Bloomberg multiplied Giuliani's repression of the Black population by nearly seven. He chose to make Stop-And-Frisk much worse than it was when he inherited it.

     There was some more innocent exaggeration at work when Bloomberg said that he ended Stop-And-Frisk in the last year of his term. The NYPD was sued over Stop-And-Frisk and a federal judge ruled against the city in 2013. What was Bloomberg's reaction at the time? He said it was a "dangerous decision made by a judge who I think does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the U.S. Constitution."

     It's okay now though. He's apologized. Probably because he's running for President.

     Even before he apologized he was starting to line up an impressive number of endorsements. Three of those endorsers, Congressmen Bobby Rush, Gregory Meeks, and Ben McAdams have very clear motives. They are conservative Democrats being challenged by progressive local activists who want a Congress oriented toward fighting hard for progressive policy. Others, like Max Rose and Lucy McBath, will need re-election money to fight off well-heeled Republicans looking to take back traditionally red districts.

     Like the white knights of the business world, Bloomberg is only loved for his money. A genuine billionaire, Bloomberg can easily match the huge amounts of corporate money the Republicans will throw at Dems in their attempt to take back Congress. He can bankroll the Dems attempt to take the Senate, if the nominees are agreeable to him. Suddenly Frackenlooper makes sense in Colorado?

     Most importantly to the DNC, he can match the huge corporate Super PAC money behind Donald Trump. Of course he looks good to people who only care about fundraising. When he inevitably loses, they will be able to fundraise off the need to provide a check to the Orange Troll.

     That's right: when he loses. Bloomberg can't beat Trump because he leaves exactly the same room for Trump to run to his left on war, trade, criminal justice reform, and jobs. The fact that Trump will continue along the same right wing road he has always traveled makes Bloomberg's candidacy a sick joke for those of us who have to live with the consequences.

     Bloomberg has a lot of problem policies that should make us hate the idea of him sitting in the White House too. He helped destroy the Oakland public school system. He helped break teachers' unions in New York. He supported Dubya for re-election in 2004. There are a lot of right wing, authoritarian skeletons in that closet along with the Brooks Brothers suits.

     I'm sticking with Bernie.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Dinner Plate Joe Is Not Your Uncle

     I don't consider Joe Biden to be an electable candidate. I think his strength in the polls is soft. I think his record is full of glaring cracks that will cause that support to fall apart under close attention. I think when Bernie Sanders wins Iowa and New Hampshire, black voters who have been saying Biden is their first choice and Bernie is their second will flip it around because they will believe Bernie is a winner. His record is what interests me here. I think Joe Biden's unelectability is less important the high likelihood that he would be a very bad President for the American working class if he were elected. Joe Biden is not your blue collar uncle. He's a career politician who has built his success on standing on the other side of the door and pushing progressive ideas out of the room all his life.

     To quote the linked 2018 piece for Paste Magazine by Walker Bragman,
    "One of the main criticisms of Hillary Clinton this past election was that she was inexorably close to Wall Street, having accepted campaign contributions from the likes of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and of course, her paid speeches. Well, Biden may just be worse."

     Walker likes fancy words. I do too sometimes. What he said in plain language is that if you thought Hillary Clinton was on your boss and your landlord's side, good old "Uncle Joe" is worse. Biden's very first event after launching his campaign was at the home of a Comcast executive and Republican donor. Another of these donors is a high level lobbyist for my old employer, a business services contracting firm called Conduent that runs toll roads and call centers. Conduent used to be "Xerox Services." We're talking about a major player. So much for the myth of Working Class Joe. Lobbyists and donors were the people who mattered to him when it was time to kick things off.

     Ordinary working class people aren't going to like this and Joe, via the media, will keep rubbing it in our faces until we want to bathe. He's not going to magically shift everything to appeal to grassroots donors at this stage in his career. He's not even pretending to do so. He's taken over $3M from the "lawyer/lobbyist" donor category already. Dinner Plate Joe is deeply tied to the American oligarchs. He's running to keep the status quo firmly in place for the corporate landlords who dominate that oligarchy. If he named Mike Bloomberg is running mate, would you really be surprised?

     This should hurt his chances. Whether it will or not depends on how successful the Bernie Sanders campaign is at genuinely organizing, harnessing, and directing a working class, progressive movement. If working class, millennial turnout is high then Joe Biden will not be the nominee. That's good news.

      The most telling evidence against Biden's working class street cred is his career long crusade to make big deals with Republicans to cut or means test Social Security and Medicare. As Ryan Grim writes in the linked Intercept piece,
"AS EARLY AS 1984 and as recently as 2018, former Vice President Joe Biden called for cuts to Social Security in the name of saving the program and balancing the federal budget."
     That's right, Joe Biden called for cuts to Social Security as recently as 2018. That's something to keep in mind when trying to decide whether he still intends to do what he said he wants to do. In 2018, Joe Biden was presumably getting ready to run for President. If he was speaking off the cuff on Social Security at the time, it was very likely in the context of a future Biden Presidency. Why else mention it at all?

     This is the famous video that the Biden campaign said was doctored and Politifact says was not shown in context. My cat's hairballs smell better than those excuses.

     If you watch the full video included in the Intercept piece, this completely falls to pieces. Biden very specifically recommends exactly the same policy solutions that had been recommended by Paul Ryan. Joe Biden thinks we're spending too much money on retirement benefits and medical coverage for senior citizens. Joe Biden thinks we need to cut social spending on retirement benefits and healthcare coverage for senior citizens.

     Let's be very clear and politically incorrect. Cutting spending on retirement benefits and healthcare coverage for senior citizens means letting old people die. You can't pretty it up or hide that fact without lying. If you pin liberals who recommend such actions down on their reasons, they will refuse that budget cuts equal responsibility for deaths rather than deny that people will die. Think about what this means: the people who advocate for budget cuts know people will die but don't want to accept responsibility for those deaths, despite advocating for the cause of those deaths.

     Do the candidates think about these things the same way their supporters do? Is it worse if they do or worse if they are out of touch and blissfully ignorant?

     Dinner Plate Joe isn't our uncle and he isn't our friend. Just say no to Dinner Plate Joe.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

How Money Works: Why we can pay for nice things!

     This past Friday, the Dow topped 29,000 for the first time in history. The tone in which the story was reported was breathless and triumphal. It was clear that NBC News writer Lucy Bayly was very impressed by the record.
    "The Dow hit 28,000 on Nov. 15 and needed just 48 points Friday to breach the 29,000 mark, having flirted with the number all day Thursday after a de-escalation in the conflict with Iran soothed investor fears, energy prices settled, and Apple posted record gains on higher-than-expected sales in China.
Gains in Apple, Goldman Sachs, and healthcare stocks helped push the index upwards." 
     Notice how specific those reasons are. Energy prices settled, we didn't have a war, and Apple did really well. Gains by Apple, the biggest investment firm in the country, and the healthcare industry pushed us over the top. Great work team!

     Except they don't mention that these numbers were purchased with $128B from the Federal Reserve. This was the first time the Fed had taken this kind of action since 2009, when it was done as part of the Obama era financial stimulus package. This time it was done so the Fed could cut interest rates and banks could keep lending.
   "Separately on Wednesday, the Fed is expected to announce it will lower interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point as officials look to insulate the economy from a downturn. Though hiring and spending remain solid in the US, investors have grown increasingly jittery about slower global growth and trade tensions."
     Apparently the September investment by the Fed soothed those investment jitters. Yet this was done solely to enrich stock and bond holders, while keeping banks lending money to corporations. We are not benefiting from this decision in any meaningful way because most of us don't have significant money in the stock market. 10% of the population owns 84% of share value. While many working class Americans "own stock" through their 401k retirement accounts, these shares are part of the remaining 16% of total share value. That's not significant at all and the investment firms that manage those accounts are keeping a lot of the value on profits.

     When we can casually drop $128B into the stock market for the benefit of Wall Street bookies and billionaire landlords, it's ridiculous to say that we can't afford policy that would benefit the American people directly instead of indirectly. Especially since we just print money to pay the interest on the bonds held by those billionaires. The right hand holds up the stock market, the second prints money to keep up interest payments on bonds. The federal debt just enriches the same people borrowing the money in the end.

     Bring the Pentagon budget under control, end the Forever War, and turn the power of the coinage into a tool for the benefit of the working people of America instead of the landlords. If we can do that then we can issue the money needed for a Green New Deal, Federal Jobs Guarantee and Medicare For All without fear. We're going to pay for it whether we do it or not.

     This is really the important part. The federal government will continue to sell bonds and to pay interest to the holders of those bonds with our without a Green New Deal. If we are proceeding with the Green New Deal anyway, then interest payments on debt created along the way will continue to benefit the same billionaires they do now. The only difference is that we will have clean fuel and workplace democracy.

     The landlords will be a lot less powerful, however, and that's the real root of opposition to progressive Congressional candidates and Bernie Sanders. If they lose their power then they will again have to provide the federal revenue instead of successfully leaving the working class with the bill. That scares them more than anything else.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

A Late New Year's Resolution

     Dear Readers,

     I'm behind on my New Year's Resolution. This is January 4th, after all, and I'm three days late. Still, I think it's a good idea to make one. Then I have to do my best to try to stick with it. So here we go. Please do your best to hold me to it as the year goes on, if you read this and pay attention!

     First, I resolve to write something every Saturday like I originally intended to do when I started blogging again! I think it's really important to be consistent and to work on my technical process. I also need to write longer essays and work on my fiction. This means blogging every Saturday and writing, consistently, on other projects every night before bed. I believe I can do this, so I will do this. This is the one I will need you guys to push me on the most!

     Second, I resolve to avoid fighting with Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang supporters and to focus on going after Joe Biden the way he should be gone after. There is so much good material for writing and tweeting there that I just have to put that energy where there is the most productive work to be done for the most rewarding returns. This is important because Biden is the one we need to stop right now. If he actually wins the nomination, I see it being very difficult to pass any progressive policy. I also think he hurts our chances to take back the Senate. We need to nominate strong progressive candidates and run Bernie Sanders at the top of the ticket if we want to win the Senate!

     Third, I need to work on connecting the two separate focuses of my Twitter output and writing more effectively. I need to refocus on teaching a libertarian socialist critique of capitalist authoritarianism and then connect it directly to my project of promoting a progressive Congressional revolution. I resolve to do this and to put teaching first, then connecting lessons to the promotion of a Progressive Wave in 2020.

   Finally, I need to not let Twitter interfere with my work so much. I also smother my own tweets and prevent them from taking off the way they could with too much output sometimes. So I resolve to try to put just a little more space between important tweets, to focus on my day job while at work and to put time into my writing and tweeting with more discipline.


The Eclectic Radical