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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2010

Ignoring a revolution: By far, the most striking passage we read all week came from the pen of Bob Herbert.

Herbert cited data from Robert Reich’s new book, Aftershock. In this passage, he is discussing your country’s economic growth over the past thirty years:

HERBERT (9/14/10): There was plenty of growth, but the economic benefits went overwhelmingly—and unfairly—to those already at the top. Mr. Reich cites the work of analysts who have tracked the increasing share of national income that has gone to the top 1 percent of earners since the 1970s, when their share was 8 percent to 9 percent. In the 1980s, it rose to 10 percent to 14 percent. In the late-’90s, it was 15 percent to 19 percent. In 2005, it passed 21 percent. By 2007, the last year for which complete data are available, the richest 1 percent were taking more than 23 percent of all income.

Those data describe a social revolution. In the 1970s, the top one percent received eight percent of national income. By 2007, their share had tripled, to 23 percent. Herbert went on to state a concomitant point: “A male worker earning the median wage in 2007 earned less than the median wage, adjusted for inflation, of a male worker 30 years earlier.”

The rich have gotten a great deal richer. Everyone else has stood still.

At Slate, Timothy Noah has completed his series about this massive rise in inequality. We’ll likely discuss his work in the coming weeks. For now, we’ll only suggest that you ask yourself this:

In the face of that staggering social revolution, are you aware of any politics or political messaging on the left which has tried to encompass this revolution? Have liberal entities even tried to make the public aware of this change? Have liberal entities tried to build political frameworks in which average people of the left, the center and the right can see their obvious common interest in confronting this revolution?

Actually, no—you have not. And by the way: Average people of the left and the right are the joint victims on this vast grab of wealth at the top. Progressives will never be able to address this revolution as long as average people are split into two warring camps, with big dumb nuts like Ed Schultz and Sean Hannity encouraging the two rival tribes to despise one another.

Hannity serves the interests of wealth and power. Whose interests does Ed Schultz serve?

Last night, Schultz opened his increasingly ludicrous program with an interview with Benjamin Jealous, head of the NAACP. Jealous may be a very nice person, but he is an utterly hapless public figure. He is a very heavy stone tied around progressive interests.

Incredibly, Jealous still hasn’t released the text of the NAACP’s August resolution about racism and the Tea Party movement. Have you ever heard of a major organization adopting a high-profile resolution, then refusing to release its text? We’ve never heard of that either.

One week after Jealous adopted that resolution, he declared Shirley Sherrod a racist! Yes, that Benjamin Jealous.

Last night, Jealous was thundering with Big Eddie, and the intellectual bankruptcy of “the left” was there for all to observe. Quickly, Jealous made a familiar type of claim. But did his claim make real sense? Had Jealous arrived with the beef?

JEALOUS (9/16/10): You know, the Tea Party folks—you know, you’ve got two camps. What I can’t understand is why they won’t be more outspoken about the racists in their ranks, why they won’t push them out.

Wow! Good for Jealous! He was making a very strong statement: The Tea Party folk still won’t push the racists out of their ranks!

Jealous said he can’t understand why the Tea Party won’t be more outspoken about all these racists! But did he have any examples of this refusal? Did he have new racist acts for us to consider? Sorry—Jealous, who called Shirley Sherrod a racist, was simply tickling the strings of his months-old greatest hits:

SCHULTZ: So you want the Tea Party to denounce any talk of violence. They haven’t. You want the Tea Party to denounce racism. Have they done that?

JEALOUS: You’ve seen bits and pieces and some good signs. You’ve seen some good signs. Again, you saw Glenn Beck saying, “Leave your signs at home.” He did it again this week. He said to people, "Just leave your signs at home."

You’ve seen them throw out Mark Williams from the Tea Party Express and the Tea Party Express faction for not disowning him. They’ve got to go further. They’ve got to go further. It’s fine if you want to build a movement on tax policy, but if you want to keep racism, you know, gasoline and racism aflame—

SCHULTZ: No doubt. Does it make you nervous that their candidates are winning and it`s changed—it’s moving the Republican Party further to the right, which historically, has left minorities behind?

JEALOUS: It makes me want to stand up and fight for pulling this country back to work, putting this country back together. You know, again, if they want to attack diversity, if they want to attack the 14th Amendment, if they want to attack the Civil Rights Act, we need to be pushing just as hard to get jobs created so that people in this country see that, look, you know, either you can run downhill towards hatred and division, or you can push, come together and push uphill towards prosperity and hope. And that’s where we need to be focused, in pushing uphill toward prosperity.

“They’ve got to go further” in denouncing racism, Jealous declared, seeming to suggest (before being cut off) that the Tea Party movement “wanted to keep racism” mixed with gasoline in some manner. But how should the Tea Party movement go further? Schultz didn’t ask, and Jealous didn’t tell. The fellows simply tickled us rubes with more of their racism imagery.

Racism has been the most pernicious force in American history. It’s a very serious topic; serious people treat it that way. People like Schultz and Jealous toy with the topic, because they don’t have a freaking thing to say about anything else. In the process, they keep building very high walls among the American people.

Simple story: Average people of the left, right and center are getting eaten by the social revolution defined by Reich’s data. For example, they are all getting ripped off by the remarkable cost of American health care—a remarkable topic which went undiscussed in last year’s discussion of health care. Schultz suffered one of his most buffoonish moments in the course of that non-discussion (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/2/09). But no major liberal or mainstream press entity ever attempted to explain why health care costs are so stunningly high in this country.

Duh. Those remarkable health care costs are part of the social revolution defined by Reich’s data. But did you see a single Big Liberal really examine that topic last year? Did you see Rachel raise it? Big Eddie? Joan?

We’re sorry, but no—you did not.

Our “liberal leaders” almost entirely come from within that top one percent. (From high within that one percent.) They display little sense of the problem defined by Reich’s data—and when they’re pushed, they tend to defer to corporate/major wealth interests. Over the course of the past several decades, the “liberal” world has produced nothing in reaction to the revolution defined in Reich’s data —no messaging; no frameworks; no serious outreach. Instead, our dumbest players—this would include both Schultz and Jealous—keep playing the same old songs, even when these songs serve to drive the electorate into rival camps. Even when they have nothing to bring to their claims of ongoing racism. People like this have little to tell you—so they keep singing these songs.

The conservative world keeps churning the points which defend and advance that vast revolution. The liberal world is a sad screaming mess. Schultz and Jealous are very weak players—but this is the tea we get served.

In fairness, Jealous later corrected himself. Shirley Sherrod isn’t a racist, he later quite brilliantly said. Sometime next month, he plans to release the text of that resolution.

Have you ever heard of a big organization which conducts itself in this manner? Why on earth is crap like this good enough for us on “the left?”

The latest from Madison Avenue: Later, Schultz dragged out Joe Madison, one of the least worthwhile of the worthless. Soon, the frothing fellows were discussing Christine O’Donnell. Liberal intellectual bankruptcy is virtually defined by this pitiful nonsense:

MADISON: She won the process. I mean, there’s no question.

JOHN FEEHERY: And she’s the nominee, she got the Republican nomination and she’s got a chance to win it. I think Castle had a better chance of winning but I think that she’s got a pretty good chance of winning.

MADISON: The only thing that I disagree with Ed, it’s not an R, it’s a double R. These are radical Republicans that we’re talking about and I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen in November. As we move towards, people are going to see these are radical policies, radical Republicans. They are quite honestly remind me of Dixiecrats back during the Strom Thurmond era, as simple as that.

To his credit, Madison used the perfect word: “simple.”

Good grief. Inside Madison’s empty noggin, a discussion of Christine O’Donnell quickly led to Dixiecrats during the Strom Thurmond era.” It would be hard to overstate the dumbness of that—although many liberals seem to be working hard, as we speak, to get O’Donnell elected. (And yes, she does have a chance.)

How pathetic is Madison? Comically, he went on to say this. Truly, your side is a joke:

MADISON: Well, look, who was it, Phillip Randolph said during the 60, the march, the march on Washington, Look who is opposed to Social Security. Look who is opposed to public education. Look who is opposed to health care. Look who is opposed to minimum wages and those are the people who you will find are the enemies of the Democrats and the folks who want to move this party forward. I got to say one thing. I had an interview with the president of the United States. He did say something very strong to me. And that was that the Republicans drove this vehicle into a ditch. And they want the keys back. And he said in the interview, in the Oval Office, we’re not going to give them the keys back. And I totally agree with you. But it’s got to be more than just the president and the vice president. There has to be more.

Madison was desperate to let us know that he had interviewed Obama. He was so desperate, he was even willing to repeat Obama’s most frequently-offered talking-point, pretending it was new and different—“something very strong.”

The other side has highly skilled leadership working to serve plutocratic interests. Your side counters with buffoons, from high in that top one percent.

Special report: Thirty-year war!

PART 4—DUMB LIKE US (permalink): By 1994, the American public had been quite thoroughly disinformed.

Five years later, Baker and Weisbrot would publish their book, Social Security: The Phony Crisis. In their dedication, they praised “the thousands of volunteers, including many senior citizens, who have generously volunteered their time and energy to defending Social Security…against an avalanche of misinformation, disinformation, and powerful political and financial interests” (our emphasis).

But even by 1994, that “avalanche of misinformation” had had its way with the public. In that year, the Associated Press reported an iconic survey of younger voters (ages 18 to 34). “Young Americans find it easier to believe in UFOs than the likelihood Social Security will be around when they retire,” the AP reported in September of that year. Among respondents, only 34 percent said they believed that Social Security would still exist when they retired.

Five years later, Baker and Weisbrot published their book—and it was largely ignored by the ever-feckless “liberal world.” And from that day forward, no liberal entity has made any real attempt to explain the logic of Social Security in a way average people can understand.

The disinformation keeps rumbling down; it’s even pimped by hapless “liberal” players like Lawrence O’Donnell and Gail Collins. As this happens, the liberal world continues to sit and stare—except when we get the chance to insult the typical voter.

When Lawrence O’Donnell plays the fool, reciting key points of the disinformation, we pseudo-liberals gaze politely on his manifest greatness. When a grocery store clerk shows that he’s been disinformed by people like O’Donnell, we stand in line to roll our beautiful eyes about his incredible dumbness.

It’s hard to have sufficient contempt for this aspect of “liberal” culture. But this has been a central part of our ratty culture for at least five decades now. As we enact this part of our culture, we doom the chances of progressive advance.

We show that, when it comes to pure dumb, there’s no group as dumb as we are.

In our view, Digby performed an important service when she reported the conversation she stumbled upon at Albertson’s (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/14/10). She stumbled upon an important conversation—a conversation conducted by three average people who don’t understand the logic or workings of the Social Security program. But this conversation has been occurring all through the society for at least the past twenty years—and it’s perfectly obvious why so many people are so misinformed.

Why are people so misinformed? Powerful interests set out to accomplish this task, and they have plainly succeeded. And sure enough! As they have pursued this objective, the liberal world has sat and stared, even when major players like Collins, Bai and O’Donnell recite the bogus talking-points which define this plutocrat war.

We liberals only stand to complain when average people say such things. Then, we thunder, exclaim and parade, remarking upon how brilliant we are as compared to these unlettered rubes.

It’s hard to be dumber than we are at such moments. It’s hard to have rattier character.

That post by Digby was very important. We’ll only suggest that you review the comments by Digby’s readers to see the way one part of the “liberal” world reacted to what she described. (To access the comments, click here.) Many of us began to thunder about the dumbness of those three average voters. In this way, plutocrats divide and conquer, as they have done throughout time.

Ask yourself this as you scroll through those comments: How many of those self-impressed “liberals” could explain the logic of Social Security, in a way which would stand up to the skilled talking-points those voters have endlessly heard? As good pseudo-liberals, we’ve now been trained to reject the idea that the system is in serious trouble. But the thirty-year disinformation war includes a great many claims which are very slick—and the liberal world has rarely made the slightest attempt to challenge or deconstruct these claims in ways which make sense to voters.

In our culture, those voters exist for two major reasons: So we can say how dumb they are. So we can denounce them as bigots.

With that in mind, let’s return to Matt Bai’s astounding presentation in the August 26 New York Times. In the following passage, Bai bowed to an age-old bit of plutocrat semantics, referring to all the “IOUs” the Social Security trustees have acquired. He also repeated a newer, slick construction which has come, in recent years, to drive this thirty-year war:

BAI (8/26/10): The coalition bases its case on the idea that Social Security is actually in fine fiscal shape, since it has amassed a pile of Treasury Bills—often referred to as IOUs—in a dedicated trust fund. This is true enough, except that the only way for the government to actually make good on these IOUs is to issue mountains of new debt or to take the money from elsewhere in the federal budget, or perhaps impose significant tax increases—none of which seem like especially practical options for the long term. So this is sort of like saying that you're rich because your friend has promised to give you 10 million bucks just as soon as he wins the lottery.

Since the Reagan reforms of 1983, the federal government has borrowed a whole lot of money from the Social Security trustees. (This has happened in precisely the way President Reagan directed.) Bai quickly issued a warning to readers: To repay this money, the federal government will have to “issue new debt or to take the money from elsewhere in the federal budget, or perhaps impose tax increases.” (We’ve dropped Bai’s silly qualifiers—mountains of debt; significant tax increases—which were designed to make this prospect sound even more unlikely.) Bai is so frightened by this troubling prospect, he ends up comparing the chance that this will occur to the chance that a typical person will win $10 million in the lottery.

Bai recited a relatively new construction from the plutocrat war. In recent years, this construction has come to play an increasing part in that thirty-year onslaught. And uh-oh! Eventually, as you read the comments to Digby’s post, you will see a commenter offer this same talking-point as a warning to Digby’s readers. We would guess that he or she did so in complete good faith.

Question: How many of those self-impressed readers even knew that this was a talking-point from the plutocrat war? How many of those self-impressed readers would have known how to debunk it? We’ll answer both your questions: None! When it comes to most of these plutocrat points, we liberals are every bit as clueless as the voters Digby met at the store.

None of this kept us self-impressed losers from mocking the very dumb people who had that conversation that day. Those comments prove a clear point: In the politics of the past thirty years, no one has been as stupid as us.

The history of this era is clear: Starting in the 1960s, Oligarchic Power began to construct a series of major spin tanks. In large part, they were fighting back against the great leveling which had occurred during the New Deal and the post-war period. Inside these spin tanks, skillful players skillfully fashioned very persuasive talking-points about a series of issues.

The plutocrat world was very skilled as it constructed these deceptive points. In response, the liberal world has been completely hapless.

Can we talk? The plutocrat world has shown great skill. It’s the liberal world which has been dumb.

Today, the public has been thoroughly disinformed, on a wide range of basic topics. (If we lower tax rates, we get extra revenue! Social Security is going bankrupt! European health care has failed everywhere it’s been tried! Our test scores are a disaster!) And we pseudo-liberals love to mock the average people who have been disinformed. At the same time, we monstrously foolish pseudo-liberals treat O’Donnell as a man of obvious greatness. Starting next week, he will pander to our stupidity on his own “liberal” TV show.

If it’s dumb you like, the dumbness is us! Digby reported an important conversation. Go ahead—check the way her readers set about doing the thing we liberals do best. Check the way they set about trashing average people, thus destroying progressive interests.

Lawrence O’Donnell? He’s a great man. Who do we liberals love to hate? The unionized clerk in a grocery store! In this way, you see our souls—and the plutocrat’s route to more power.