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Bernie Sanders Showed How Democrats Can Win with Socialism 

21 Oct

Bernie Sanders was the clear winner of the CNN debate on tax policy. (CNN)

In CNN’s Tax Debate, Bernie Sanders Showed How Democrats Can Win with Socialism

By offering a bold vision of policies to help working families, Sanders voiced a popular alternative to Ted Cruz and the GOP’s barbarism.

BY KATE ARONOFF

Had Wednesday night’s CNN debate on tax reform instead been one for the presidency, the odds for Democrats would look pretty good. Ted Cruz, an unlikable Republican, was pitted against Bernie Sanders, the country’s most popular politician, who articulated a common-sense vision for an America based on equality and a redistribution of wealth from the top to the bottom.

But rather than embracing this bold vision, the Democratic establishment seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Following the debate, news broke that the DNC had pushed out a number of progressives from its leadership positions, including many who had supported Rep. Keith Ellison in his leadership bid against current chair Tom Perez, Obama’s Labor Secretary.

One of the few correct things Ted Cruz said at Wednesday night’s debate was that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren represent “the heart of the Democratic Party.” This recent purge at the DNC raises the question of whether the party is interested in having a heart at all. Or, for that matter, in winning.

To understand why Sanders’ brand of democratic socialism presents a promising way forward for Democrats, it’s important to understand that the GOP’s current agenda is both hollow and incoherent—on economic issues in particular.

Lies vs. honesty

Throughout the debate, Cruz doubled down on Republicans’ talking point that cutting the corporate tax rate would fuel economic growth—the GOP plan would slash the official rate for corporations from 35 to 20, even though today’s effective corporate tax rate sits well below either of those figures. “When you cut [corporate] taxes the result is everyone benefits because you have more opportunity, better jobs and higher wages,” Cruz claimed.

The trouble with that story is that it’s patently false.

“We have run a four-decade-long experiment in reducing effective marginal tax rates on the rich, both in the individual and corporate tax systems, and it has definitely failed to fuel economic growth,” Marshall Steinbaum, a Fellow and Research Director at the Roosevelt Institute, tells In These Times via email. “What it has done is vastly increase pre-tax income and wealth inequality by facilitating the concentration of power between and within corporations—which I would argue was its aim all along.”

On taxes and other issues, the GOP’s economic talking points tend to rest on a dogma about how the economy should work which isn’t actually supported by evidence. Sanders put the debate in starker and more common-sense terms:

“Senator Cruz wants to see legislation pass that would give $1.9 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent, significantly increase the national debt being passes on to our kids and our grandchildren, and in order to pay for these tax breaks for billionaires, he wants to throw 15 million people off of Medicaid, cut Medicare by over $450 billion… I do not believe that America is about giving tax breaks to the very, very wealthy and cutting life and death programs for working families.”

Cruz would likely have had a much easier time debating an establishment Democrat than a socialist. Jabs about billionaires’ campaign funding would strike close to home for DNC insiders, whereas similar attacks seem to wash off Sanders. This partially explains why Cruz decided to go after Obama’s record rather than push back on the merits of Sanders’ argument: That every American deserves healthcare, free education and a host of other benefits that are considered standard in many other industrialized nations.

For more than 50 years in American politics, accusations of being a socialist have struck fear into the hearts of Democrats. Sanders welcomes the term. “I am a democratic socialist and I ran as an Independent,” Sanders responded when prodded by Cruz. “You didn’t run as a right-winger, you ran as a Republican.”

 

 

 

What taxes are for

Republicans have long tried to craft a reputation for themselves as deficit hawks, even though governmental projections of their current tax plan—as Sanders mentioned—estimate that it would add trillions of dollars to the federal deficit.

In that sense, the GOP plan would seem to fail on its own terms. But that would require the party to genuinely care about the deficit in a way that it never has. On its own, the national debt doesn’t make much of a difference in terms of people’s day-to-day lives. What matters is how that money is spent, and Republicans have historically been better at understanding that than Democrats.

“There’s absolutely no economic justification whatsoever for caring about government deficits in the current economic environment.” Steinbaum explains. “In this, the Republicans have outmaneuvered Democrats time and time again. It’s one of the classic and consequential long-term political failures of the center-left over the last 30 years.”

At a time when inflation has been sluggish, expansionary programs make both economic and political sense. Such policies would help jump start the economy while garnering political support in a populist moment. In contrast to what you might expect from most Democrats, Sanders was able to reframe last night’s debate away from Cruz’s fear-mongering about taxes to what services the government should be expected to provide.

In a sly casting move, CNN recruited a Danish citizen and think tank employee to ask Sanders a gotcha question about the notoriously high taxation rates in Scandinavian social democracies. Ultimately, however, the questioner was forced to admit that Cruz’s demonization of European healthcare systems for being expensive and riddled with long waiting lines was “just not true,” and that his home country is in many ways better at meeting basic needs than his adopted one.

You don’t need to be a socialist to agree that the government should be spending more on the programs that make a positive difference in working peoples’ lives. Especially in the United States, the definition of what constitutes a democratic socialist is somewhat fluid, and many have argued that Sanders is closer to a New Deal Democrat than even a European social democrat.

What Sanders and a rising tide of socialist-aligned organizers and elected officials represent, though, is a break from the fiscal conservatism that has defined the last 20 years of Democratic Party politics, and a defense of good, big government. Whether raising the tax rate to 90 percent for the highest income earners counts as socialism is a debate worth having, but the embrace of such a goal by Democrats would represent a radical shift in how the party has related to tax policy: Seeing taxes as not just as a way to pay for vital programs, but as a means of redistributing wealth and power away from the one percent.

Lessons from the UK

Britain’s political landscape might actually offer a more hopeful way forward than Denmark’s. Conservatives are rapidly shedding members and support under disastrous leadership, and lack either youth support or rising stars. Labour, the opposition party, is unified around an uncompromising socialist vision, and may well be poised to take back the government in the next general election.

If Democrats knew what was good for them, the party could start down a similar path: embrace the fact that Sanders and Warren are the heart the party and lean hard into a redistributive agenda, going after Trump while proposing a visionary path forward. There are better conduits of that message than Sanders, but grooming them for office and national leadership would require the party to refashion itself into a welcoming place for left populism and—on a basic infrastructural level—investing in state parties rather than consultants.

The DNC, by contrast, seems content to keep losing.

Kate Aronoff is a writing fellow at In These Times covering the politics of climate change, the White House transition and the resistance to Trump’s agenda. Follow her on Twitter @katearonoff

 

The “Rigged System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does Left Wing & Progressive books & blogs fah451bks.wordpress.com

Source: In CNN’s Tax Debate, Bernie Sanders Showed How Democrats Can Win with Socialism – In These Times

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The New York Times and the criminalization of dissent!

14 Oct

 

The unsubstantiated charges of Russian interference in the US elections have developed into an increasingly frenzied campaign to ascribe all opposition within the United States to the actions of a “foreign enemy.”

The campaign within the American media and political establishment over allegations of Russian “hacking” and manipulation of the US elections is being transformed into an increasingly frenzied demand for the criminalization of dissent.

During the first months of the Trump administration, the charges of Russian interference in US politics were primarily used to prosecute a struggle within the American ruling class centered on issues of foreign policy. The anti-Russian campaign has now developed into an effort to ascribe all opposition within the United States to the actions of a “foreign enemy.”

A series of increasingly ludicrous articles have appeared in the US press, channeling information supposedly gathered by the Senate Intelligence Committee from social media companies. The latest appeared on Tuesday in the New York Times, which has played the central role in the media campaign. The front-page article (“Russians Spun American Rage Into a Weapon: Facebook Posts in US Fueled Propaganda”) is a piece of pure political propaganda, filled with unsubstantiated statements, wild speculation and unsupported conclusions.

Social media posts from Americans, the Times asserts, have become “grist for a network of Facebook pages linked to a shadowy Russian company that carried out propaganda campaigns for the Kremlin.” The newspaper claims to have reviewed hundreds of these posts, concluding, “One of the most powerful weapons that Russian agents used to reshape American politics was the anger, passion and misinformation that real Americans were broadcasting across social media platforms.”

The article names several Facebook pages that it baldly asserts, without proof, were owned and controlled by the unnamed Russian company, including United Muslims of America, Being Patriotic, Secured Borders, and Blacktivist.

The entire premise of the Times article is absurd. Pages associated with Russia, it is claimed, are reporting and sharing expressions of anger, sowing discontent and divisions. United Muslims of America, for example, “frequently posted content highlighting discrimination against Muslims.” This, somehow, is criminal activity. Those who originally produced the content or shared the posts are acting, at best, as Russian patsies, and, at worst, as co-conspirators. The Times cites one Trump supporter who shared a post from the Being Patriotic group, characterizing him as “not bothered…by becoming an unwitting cog in the Russian propaganda machine.”

The claims of Russian manipulation read like the ravings of individuals suffering from paranoid delusions. According to an earlier statement from Republican Senator James Lankford, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Russian “trolls” are responsible for pushing the controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence. Russian “troll farms,” he claimed, were working to “raise the noise level in America.”

Clint Watts, a former top FBI agent who has testified at Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on Russian intervention in the elections and has been frequently quoted in the media, replied to Lankford’s comments by declaring, “The Russians can just sit back and say: ‘Amplify on both sides. Make people angry.’ And it works, man, God, it works.”

Such claims reproduce the worst tactics used during the period of McCarthyite redbaiting. What used to be called “Commie dupes” are now “Russian dupes.” (Unconcerned by the fact that the Soviet Union was dissolved over a quarter century ago, GQ magazine recently posted an article that featured a graphic replacing the “G” in “Google” with a hammer and sickle). Dissent and opposition, according to this line, are to be interpreted not as the product of internal divisions and social tensions, but the nefarious workings of a foreign power.

The Times article includes lines that read like they came straight from the proclamations of Senator Joe McCarthy or the files of J. Edgar Hoover. “The Russians,” it states, “appear to have insinuated themselves across American social media platforms and used the same promotional tools that people employ to share cat videos, airline complaints, and personal rants.” The article speaks of the need to “purge social media networks of foreign influence.”

And what was supposedly involved in this major “covert propaganda campaign?” According to US Senate investigators, Russian companies spent a total of $100,000 on Facebook advertisements to promote messages like those cited by the Times.

Another article appearing in the Times on Tuesday (“Google Inquiry Connects Election Ads to Russians”) asserts that “accounts believed to be connected to the Russian government” purchased a grand total of $4,700 worth of ads, while “a separate $53,000 worth of ads with political material…were purchased from Russian internet addresses, building addresses or with Russian currency…”

This is an infinitesimal fraction of what is spent by political campaigns awash in money from corporate executives and American plutocrats. Some $2.65 billion was spent by the Clinton and Trump campaigns and organizations supporting them during the presidential race. Nearly $7 billion was spent on all US federal elections last year. Yet the Russian government’s supposedly massive campaign of subversion and propaganda amounts to a few tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook, Twitter and Google!

 

 

The conclusions would be laughable if the consequence were not so serious.

The New York Times, in close coordination with the Democratic Party and the US intelligence agencies, is engaged in a campaign that is nothing less than criminal. It is engaged in a political conspiracy to outlaw dissent in the United States and justify state efforts to prohibit, blacklist and suppress speech, particularly on the Internet. If the Russian government is merely amplifying content produced by others—including videos depicting police violence and other crimes—then the logical conclusion is that this original content must be proscribed.

Any content or article, including from the Times itself, that examines social discontent in the United States is susceptible to being picked up by the Russians and promoted. Halting such “foreign intervention” requires a regime of censorship and self-censorship of and by all media outlets—precisely what exists in a dictatorship.

The basic target of the lying campaign over Russian manipulation of US public opinion is not Russia, but the American population. The state institutions and the two parties, Democratic and Republican, are deeply discredited and broadly hated. The working class does not need the Russian or Chinese governments to know that American society is massively unequal, that the political system is controlled by the rich, and that the police engage in brutal acts of violence on a daily basis.

Control of the Internet and the suppression of free speech online is a basic strategic issue for the American ruling class. The emergence of online communication and Internet platforms broke the control of the major media conglomerates over the distribution of information. Under conditions of growing popular opposition to social inequality and war, and deepening political crisis, establishing state control over the Internet is seen as a matter of the greatest urgency.

This is what Google has already begun to do. As the World Socialist Web Sitehas documented, changes to Google’s search algorithm in April, introduced under the pretext of combating “fake news” and promoting “authoritative content,” have resulted in a fall in referrals from Google to the WSWS by nearly 70 percent, and to 13 other left-wing sites by between 19 and 63 percent.

The actions of Google are only the beginning. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms are preparing or have already begun to implement similar measures. The US Justice Department has demanded that staff at the American branch of Russian news agency RT register as foreign agents by October 17 or face possible arrest. This action will be used as a precedent for targeting left-wing and antiwar websites and organizations as agencies of a “foreign enemy” that must be shut down or censored.

It is necessary to organize the working class and youth against this neo-McCarthyite assault on free speech and the Internet, connecting the defense of democratic rights to opposition to social inequality, war, dictatorship and the capitalist system. Meetings must be organized throughout the country and internationally to expose what is taking place and mobilize opposition. The WSWS urges all its readers to sign the petition against Internet censorship and contact the Socialist Equality Party today.

Joseph Kishore

 

Order, Compliance, Obedience these are not Liberties – but unobstructed Civil Disobedience Is! All Oppression is connected! All Oppression is Violence!

Source: The New York Times and the criminalization of dissent – World Socialist Web Site

“The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies”

20 Aug

 

 

Chris Hedges; In this speech, which he gave in Santa Monica, California, and other cities last year, Chris Hedges talks about the existential challenges faced by the human species. truthdig truthdig

 

Earth First – Serve the People – Defend the Planet and all its life forms at all costs and by any means necessary! Rise Up and Defend your Mother!

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