Religious Liberty — We All Know What (And Who) THAT Means!

WaPo, ‘When was it too late?’ Some U.S. Jews wonder about their place in America,

As the midterms approached, bringing more instances of terrifying anti-Jewish rhetoric, he and his wife had their house staged to sell.

“Our question was, in the 1930s, when did people know it was time? When was it too late?” said the 66-year-old Maine doctor.

I’m not surprised to see this news report about Jewish people packing up and getting out of the US “in time.” I mean, “Religious liberty” – we all know what (and who) THAT means!

A surprising number of my own friends with Jewish ancestry are asking the question: Is it time to get out of the US? I mean, if you pay any attention at all to the news… Republicans celebrating what’s happening with Orban in in Hungary as a model for here – uh oh. An old saying: A good Jew keeps a packed bag under their bed.

Disclaimer I am 1/4 Ukrainian Jewish ancestry (grandfather – my grandmother converted). But I’m not sure Ukraine is the right place to be heading to right now.

Capitalism Parts 1 and 2

Capitalism: Maintain a “reserve army of the unemployed” to keep wages low. Keep public services (the things government does to make people’s lives better) and taxes at the top down and keep the people from organizing (democracy) to protect themselves.

Capitalism part 2: As life gets worse, bathe the masses in propaganda and point them at “the other” for blame.

Austerity breeds fascism.

The Democrats Were Supposed To Protect The Working Class

This blog chronicles the collapse of democracy, so here’s a post for that.

Chris Hedges, The Politicians Who Destroyed Our Democracy Want Us to Vote for Them to Save It, says it’s too late,

The bipartisan project of dismantling our democracy, which took place over the last few decades on behalf of corporations and the rich, has left only the outward shell of democracy. The courts, legislative bodies, the executive branch and the media, including public broadcasting, are captive to corporate power. There is no institution left that can be considered authentically democratic. The corporate coup d’état is over. They won. We lost.

[. . .]

Decayed societies, such as Weimar Germany or the former Yugoslavia, which I covered for The New York Times, always vomit up political deformities who express the hatred a betrayed public feel for a corrupt ruling class and bankrupt liberalism. The twilight of the Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Habsburg and Russian empires were no different.

[. . .]

America will descend into a Viktor Orbán-type of authoritarianism without profound political, social and economic reform.

I agree with every word of this exceptional piece except the idea that we could have walked out of the Democratic party. Things were too broken by that point and it wouldn’t have fixed anything. And the neoliberal Dems would have fought it and killed it just like they’re fighting now to kill the progressive wing. (Nader tried to “send a message” which helped Dems to lose in 2000, and the Dems of course still never got the message and just doubled down.)

My feeling is that when the (executives and Boards of) corporations banded together to pool their money to destroy democracy – sometime in the 70s – that was it. Dems not only didn’t fight back, they took the corporate side. Lots of us credit the Powell memo and it at least reflected the broader thinking that was happening then. They eroded whatever protections we had against big money running things, and there was no turning back.

For regular people they thought the Democratic party was their protector and when the Dems took the money and bought into the neoliberal (free markets etc) scam, those voters started slipping away. Then came the 2008 crash and Obama campaigning on getting rid of NAFTA, and then he didn’t and people’s lives only got worse for 8 more years, and now they’ll vote for a Trump even now before they’ll vote for Dems.

“NAFTA” is the popular code word for all of those neoliberal policies that destroyed the “American dream” and wiped out whole regions of the country and Dems squarely get the blame from working class voters.

I was just walking and listening to this about Pennsylvania. It is very much worth a listen to hear how dead the Democratic Party is with working-class people.

America’s Current Project Is Dismantling Democratic Government And Its Institutions

I’m not endorsing China’s government, but China has a rational planning system.

Politico writes about how China is surpassing the US in diplomatic relations and general influence around the world. ‘Frustrated and powerless’: In fight with China for global influence, diplomacy is America’s biggest weakness,

The Chinese communist system may be repressive and rigid, but it is more steady than the trajectory of the United States, with long-term plans that can run decades. U.S. diplomacy, on the other hand, has become too capricious, unreliable and exposed to partisan deadlock, officials and analysts say.

[…] When it comes to China, “there’s no rivalry, because the U.S. isn’t present in that rivalry here in Latin America,” the former envoy said. He noted that China is now the top trading partner for several Latin American countries. “There’s no real evidence that there’s a U.S. policy toward Latin America,” he said. “There’s pronouncements, there’s communiques, but a policy? None whatsoever.”

It’s simple. America’s “system” now prevents “us” from having and certainly from achieving any long-term goals – in diplomacy, policy and everything else

Since Reagan. America’s “conservative” project requires government to be discredited so the public will allow privatization. As a result current American ideology considers government to be bad, and government planning to be “interfering” with markets. Markets know best, etc. Business always does everything better than government. Etc.

THAT is America’s current project — dismantling government and its institutions, democratic decision-making, etc., and handing everything over to the “private” (corporate) sector — not diplomacy, policy, infrastructure or any other collective action. The wealthy who control corporations will make decisions for us. They will decide what is produced, how we live, etc.

How will this work out? Conservative ideology preaches that corporations will “act” in “their” long-term interest – even though corporations are not sentient, don’t “act,” and don’t have “interests.” In reality executives make these decisions for their own interests. The people who manage corporations are incentivized to maximize short-term gains at the expense of the long term, and then take off with the loot for themselves, not the “corporation.” So corporatism can’t, doesn’t and never will work. It’s a series of short-term managers making short-term decisions and then absconding with the loot.

China Plans, America No Longer Does

The Chinese have a system that plans and we no longer allow that. They map out goals, then come up with the plans for achieving those goals. So if they are going to build 24,000 miles of high-speed rail by 2020 they get the steel production, labor, equipment, etc in place first. They achieved that and by 2035 they will have 43,000 miles completed. At the same time they have been working on the Belt-and-Road initiative, building infrastructure around the world.

America’s “system” wont even build a few miles of high-speed rail. Never mind strategic diplomacy.

Budget Cuts = Eating The Seed Corn

Government budget cuts are not what they seem.

Understanding history could also be called ‘wisdom.’ Wisdom told stories about “eating the seed corn.” If you eat the seed corn you can’t plant your crops the following year and everyone eventually starves.

In the early 80s Reaganism/Thatcherism (neoliberalism) convinced the country to drastically cut taxes on the rich and “pay for” it by cutting spending. The US stopped spending on maintaining and modernizing infrastructure – especially transportation infrastructure, on education, on science … on so many things. So we lived off of prior investment for so long. But the infrastructure deteriorated and we certain never modernized it. (Just look at our rail and transportation systems, compared to the rest of the world.)

All that $$ was transferred to the already-wealthy top few who paid for the propaganda that convinced the rest to do this.

Privatization

Another piece of this scam was “saving money” through privatization. Using local trash collection as an example, cities would “save money” by getting rid of public trash collection and contracting with the “private sector” to do this more “efficiently.” What this meant was laying off the decently-paid public employees and hiring them back at minimum wage with no benefits. The infrastructure – trucks etc – to do this would receive little maintenance, collection schedules would be cut back, and people had to drag their trash to the curb instead of having it picked up at the house.

This didn’t actually save money, it shifted it. The newly minimum-wage workers would lose their houses which reduced property prices for e everyone and killed the tax base, they’d go on public assistance, schools would suffer and have higher costs, etc across the board. And poor people can’t spend much so all local businesses suffer, too.

Etc etc etc we can see it all around us now. But it is too late.

See also:

When Government ‘Saves Money’ And Gets ‘Smaller,’ We All Lose

You can “save money” by not changing the oil in your car. But have you ever seen a car that has never had its oil changed? After a while white smoke pours out the back because the rings are ruined. Other parts of the engine are also being ruined. Eventually the engine will seize up and quit and you have to either replace the engine or scrap the car. A simple and inexpensive procedure every few months would have prevented many thousands of dollars in expenses later.

After the Reagan tax cuts we “made government smaller” in several ways that are coming back to bite us now. One way we “saved money” by not “changing the oil” was by deferring maintenance of the country’s infrastructure – the water systems, levees, dams, roads, bridges, airports, ports, rails systems, electrical systems, and the rest of the things we all rely on to bring us safe water, get us to work, ship products and generally move our economy and live our lives.

Now the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) most recent “Infrastructure Report Card” estimates we need to spend $3.6 trillion just to bring the infrastructure up to where it should be, never mind catching up to the rest of the word with high-speed rail and smart electrical grid systems. The bill is getting more expensive every year, and people are dying as bridges, roads and other important infrastructure components fail. Thousands died in New Orleans when the levees failed.

5 ways privatization is fleecing American taxpayers

If people with OK public-employee jobs are replaced by lower-paid workers the community is poorer in the aggregate. More people will need public “safety-net” services. There will be foreclosures. Tax revenue drops because of lower pay but also because poorer people can’t spend as much in stores. Sales taxes drop as stores face fewer customers able to get by.

Reagan Revolution Home to Roost: America Is Crumbling

Trump Drowned The Government In A Bathtub

The goal of the anti-government “conservative movement” was to “starve the beast” by cutting spending and then cutting more and more and more. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

It was called “strategic deficits.” The strategy was to cut taxes in order to create budget deficits. Then whip up fear that “deficit spending” would ruin the country, until the public was convinced of the need to cut government’s budget. Once that was accomplished, do it again, and then again, ad nauseum.

Since Reagan the country has not modernized or even improved its infrastructure. Scientific research was defunded. Tax cuts changed the business model from building solid businesses to quick-buck schemes because you could make a fortune overnight and keep it. The education system fell apart. Wage stagnation combined with propaganda set people against each other. Etc etc etc.

Finally Trump came along. He drowned the country in a bathtub. The America we understood is gone.

Democracy’s Turning Point

My opinion is that the turning point for democracy was the years following the election of Obama, 2009-2012.

In 2008 the voters demanded change, and gave the Democrats a big majority. But Senate Democrats refused to end the filibuster. Instead, they required Republican permission to pass anything, and Republicans did not give them permission to pass anything at all.

This set the stage for the failure of the country we see today.