Sunday, April 30, 2017

Need Inspiration To Get You Through Another 100 Days Of Trumpism? Try Elizabeth Warren's New Book

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I don't usually look for inspiration on TV, but Friday night I found it... on Bill Maher's show, no less. His special guest was Elizabeth Warren, whose new book, This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle To Save America's Middle Class is now available. She puts the rise of Trumpism into the context of increasing economic inequality. As she told Maher's audience Friday, she wrote that productivity has gone up in this country from 1935 to the present. But where America used to invest that capital in the middle class, things started changing-- drastically and for the worse-- once Reagan, and the string of conservative shills who followed him, was elected president. From 1980 on the middle class has taken it on the chin. Trickle-down economics-- AKA, what George H.W. Bush admitted was "voodoo economics"-- with it's tax cuts for those at the top, coupled with less money to invest in education and infrastructure and basic research, while turning the banksters loose to do whatever they could get away with and while the giant corporations in the country were deregulated, has set the table for desperate people turning to populism-- whether Trump's version of fascism or the real kind of progressive populism represented by Bernie and Elizabeth Warren. "And what happened," explained Warren, "was that America's middle class began to shake, began to crumble, and now we're in a place where Donald Trump could deliver the knockout blow."

Paul Krugman reviewed the book for the NY Times two weeks ago. It's since hit their #1 spot. Krugman seems a little competitive sometimes but his review is OK and forgive him for his colossal lapse in judgment during the 2016 election cycle.
Warren lays out a position I’d call enlightened populism. She rails against the growing concentration of income and wealth in the hands of a tiny elite; argues that this concentration of economic rewards has also undermined our political system; and links unequal wealth and power to the stagnating incomes, growing insecurity and diminishing opportunities facing ordinary families. She puts a face on these stresses with capsule portraits of middle-class travails: a Walmart worker who needs to visit a food pantry, a DHL worker forced to take a huge pay cut, a millennial crushed by student debt.

She also makes good use of the autobiographical mode, contrasting her stories of modern hard times with the opportunities her (and my) generation had in a more generous, less unequal era. Her own success story, she tells us, depended a lot on the now-vanished availability of high-quality, low-cost public universities, plus a relatively high minimum wage-- “a $50-a-semester tuition changed my life.”

But how can the harshening of life for ordinary Americans be turned around? Warren calls for restored financial regulation, stronger social programs and renewed investment in education, research and infrastructure. Isn’t this the standard Democratic position? Yes and no.

Yes, what Warren is preaching sounds very much like the second coming of the New Deal-- as she herself acknowledges: “We built it once, and we can build it again.” But: Warren brings an edge to her advocacy that many Democrats have shied away from, at least until recently. Even the Obama administration, while doing much more to fight inequality than many realize, balked at making inequality reduction an explicit goal.

Furthermore, Warren comes down forcefully on the left side of an ongoing debate over both the causes of inequality and the ways it can be reduced.

One view, which was dominant even among Democratic-leaning economists in the 1990s, saw rising inequality mainly as a result of ineluctable market forces. Technology, in particular, was seen as the driver of falling wages for manual work, and attempts to fight this trend would, the argument went, do more harm than good-- raising the minimum wage, for example, would lead to job losses and higher unemployment among precisely the people you were trying to help.

Given this view, even liberals generally favored free-market policies. Maybe, they suggested, rising income inequality could be limited by spending more on education and training. But limits on income concentration and support for workers would, they assumed, mainly have to come from progressive taxes and a stronger safety net.

The alternative view, which Warren clearly endorses, is all for taxing the rich and strengthening the safety net, but it also argues that public policy can do a lot to increase workers’ bargaining power-- and that inequality has soared in large part because policy has, in fact, gone the other way.

This view has gained much more prominence over the past couple of decades, mainly because it’s now backed by a lot of evidence (which is why I call Warren’s populism “enlightened”). At the beginning of her book Warren talks about her frustration with politicians refusing to raise the minimum wage even though “study after study shows that there are no large adverse effects on jobs when the minimum wage goes up.” She’s right. Later, she writes about the adverse effects of the decline of unions; that, too, is a view supported by many studies, from such left-wing sources as, um, the International Monetary Fund.

So Warren in effect gives intervention in markets equal billing with taxes and social spending as a way to combat inequality, marking a significant move left in Democratic positioning.

But why has actual policy gone the other way? Here Warren, both in the Senate and now in this book, has been harsher and more explicit than most Democrats have been in the past, condemning the corruption of our system by big money-- and naming names.

A case in point, recounted in “This Fight Is Our Fight”: Back in 2015 there was a congressional hearing on the Labor Department’s proposed “fiduciary rule,” requiring that investment advisers act in the interests of their clients. (No, that wasn’t already the case — and kickbacks for giving bad advice were a regular part of the scene.) When a prominent financial economist associated with the Brookings Institution, Robert Litan, testified against the rule, Warren did what most politicians wouldn’t: She pointed out that his research supposedly making the case against was effectively a piece of paid advocacy on behalf of a big mutual fund manager. (Litan ended up severing his ties with Brookings, which said he had broken the rules.)

...[W]hat Democrats need right now is a reason to keep fighting. And that’s something Warren’s muscular, unapologetic book definitely offers.


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8 Comments:

At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Elizabeth Warren had truly believed all she now says she believes, she'd have endorsed and campaigned for (and maybe veep'd for) Bernie.

She endorsed and campaigned for someone who does NOT believe in and works against most of what she espouses in her book.

two words: Goldman fucking Sachs.

'nuf said.

 
At 3:17 AM, Anonymous Eugene V. Debs said...

So according to your sheer reductionism: because she didn't endorse Bernie she does not believe anything she espouses? Wow, that's crazy.

 
At 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gene, so you call someone who says A but does anti-A sane?

At the very least, you have to call that someone a liar. It's pretty simple really.
Either she is what she says or she is what she does.

"By their FRUITS shall ye know them". Sound familiar?

 
At 6:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not just the refusal to endorse Bernie. But also the endorsement and campaigning for the anti-Bernie. Those actions were NOT passive.

 
At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Warren completely jumped the shark for me. I would have accepted her supporting the Republican who won the Democratic primary, but not supporting the real Democrat, official party affiliation be damned, in the primary was a step too far. She may redeem herself in the long run, but just being the vocal opposition isn't enough.

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger Elizabeth Burton said...

You know, Anonymous, all I've ever seen you post are complaints about the people who, in your opinion, fail to meet whatever criteria you seem to have established as the minimum for acceptance. I can only assume that your economic and social position is such that you have the liberty of holding out for whatever perfect candidate your criteria describe. Many, if not most, of the rest of us, on the other hand, don't have that advantage. As such, we understand there's no such thing as a perfect candidate, and that, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In which case, both Bernie and Senator Warren have and continue to turn out some excellent desserts, and so long as they do that calling them "sellout" and or whatever other epithet is favored on any particular day says more about the name-caller than it does them.

 
At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, I understand your pain. However, I've been voting since 1975 and I've been watching elections and politics since about when JFK was killed.

While I understand your short-horizon view in favor of lesser-evilism... ANY lesser evil today is better than worser evil today, I also understand the long game (that the republicans have understood since '32 and the democraps have understood since '80).

If you play the game with only the short horizon, evil will forever mushroom. The Rs will continue to get worse (the orange-utang *IS* worse than cheney/bush who was worse than poppy and Reagan...) because the democraps only have to be a tiny bit better than the current Nazified R candidate, who continues to get substantively worse.

And when a D is horrible (or black or both) it results in the much worser R.. which results in the next D being worse than the last.

Already, the Ds have refused to reform, electing the clintonista perez as head of the dnc and Pelosi and scummer as heads of their "respective" DxCCs. And now they are tolerating and rationalizing support of anti choice candidates. And they've foisted an assortment of former Rs and other corrupt asshat candidates that mostly lose. As well, they refuse to support true progressive candidates, like Jayapal, and actually run corrupt democraps against most of them in primaries.

Bernie SAID all the right things in his campaign. Warren SAYS she agrees with him and always had. Yet Warren pointedly REFUSED to endorse his candidacy. And she then endorsed the anti-Bernie, anti-Elizabeth.

Bernie's rhetoric is flawed, but very much better than anyone since Carter. But Bernie's actions don't always match up. Elizabeth has that same problem.

Both of them endorsing the anti-progressive corrupt democrap makes them part and parcel to the problem.

So your lesser evilism inevitably results in an orange-utang and a racist Nazified congress which SHALL make your life miserable if not untenable. But if lesser evilism had been eschewed back in 1982 in favor of a long game, maybe the orange-utang would still be a TV hack on a failing show and maybe Elizabeth would be a useful part of the solution... or someone else would. But we wouldn't have to settle for a half-loaf... then a quarter... then an eighth of a moldy loaf... and then in 2016 we'd end up with a big bowl of ptomaine like we got.

I will observe the flaws of democraps and lesser evilism from today until either I die or it gets reversed... almost certainly until I die.

Others can do the see-no-evil-hear-no-evil thing and bitch about how uncomfortable I make them... that's fine. But those folks will NEVER see any improvement absent their realization that THEIR meme is what is causing all of this.

YOU people need to change for any change to occur.

 
At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Krugman does not get a pass for 2016 or anything else.

 

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