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 Reichs new book, Aftershock. In this passage, he is discussing your countrys economic growth over the past thirty years:
HERBERT (9/14/10): There was plenty of growth, but the economic benefits went overwhelminglyand unfairlyto 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. Well likely discuss his work in the coming weeks. For now, well 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, noyou 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 hasnt released the text of the NAACPs 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? Weve 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 folksyou know, youve got two camps. What I cant understand is why they wont be more outspoken about the racists in their ranks, why they wont push them out.
Wow! Good for Jealous! He was making a very strong statement: The Tea Party folk still wont push the racists out of their ranks!
Jealous said he cant understand why the Tea Party wont 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? SorryJealous, 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 havent. You want the Tea Party to denounce racism. Have they done that?
JEALOUS: Youve seen bits and pieces and some good signs. Youve 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."
Youve seen them throw out Mark Williams from the Tea Party Express and the Tea Party Express faction for not disowning him. Theyve got to go further. Theyve got to go further. Its 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 changedits 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 thats where we need to be focused, in pushing uphill toward prosperity.
Theyve 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 didnt ask, and Jealous didnt tell. The fellows simply tickled us rubes with more of their racism imagery.
Racism has been the most pernicious force in American history. Its a very serious topic; serious people treat it that way. People like Schultz and Jealous toy with the topic, because they dont 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 Reichs data. For example, they are all getting ripped off by the remarkable cost of American health carea remarkable topic which went undiscussed in last years 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 Reichs data. But did you see a single Big Liberal really examine that topic last year? Did you see Rachel raise it? Big Eddie? Joan?
Were sorry, but noyou 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 Reichs dataand when theyre 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 Reichs data no messaging; no frameworks; no serious outreach. Instead, our dumbest playersthis would include both Schultz and Jealouskeep 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 youso 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 playersbut this is the tea we get served.
In fairness, Jealous later corrected himself. Shirley Sherrod isnt 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 ODonnell. Liberal intellectual bankruptcy is virtually defined by this pitiful nonsense:
MADISON: She won the process. I mean, theres no question.
JOHN FEEHERY: And shes the nominee, she got the Republican nomination and shes got a chance to win it. I think Castle had a better chance of winning but I think that shes got a pretty good chance of winning.
MADISON: The only thing that I disagree with Ed, its not an R, its a double R. These are radical Republicans that were talking about and I think thats exactly whats 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 Madisons empty noggin, a discussion of Christine ODonnell quickly led to Dixiecrats during the Strom Thurmond era. It would be hard to overstate the dumbness of thatalthough many liberals seem to be working hard, as we speak, to get ODonnell 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, were not going to give them the keys back. And I totally agree with you. But its 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 Obamas most frequently-offered talking-point, pretending it was new and differentsomething 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 4DUMB 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 bookand 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; its even pimped by hapless liberal players like Lawrence ODonnell and Gail Collins. As this happens, the liberal world continues to sit and stareexcept when we get the chance to insult the typical voter.
When Lawrence ODonnell 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 hes been disinformed by people like ODonnell, we stand in line to roll our beautiful eyes about his incredible dumbness.
Its 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, theres no group as dumb as we are.
In our view, Digby performed an important service when she reported the conversation she stumbled upon at Albertsons (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/14/10). She stumbled upon an important conversationa conversation conducted by three average people who dont 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 yearsand its 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 ODonnell 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.
Its hard to be dumber than we are at such moments. Its hard to have rattier character.
That post by Digby was very important. Well only suggest that you review the comments by Digbys 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, weve 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 slickand 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, lets return to Matt Bais 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 Billsoften referred to as IOUsin 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 increasesnone 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. (Weve dropped Bais silly qualifiersmountains of debt; significant tax increaseswhich 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 Digbys post, you will see a commenter offer this same talking-point as a warning to Digbys 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? Well 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. Its 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 its 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 ODonnell as a man of obvious greatness. Starting next week, he will pander to our stupidity on his own liberal TV show.
If its dumb you like, the dumbness is us! Digby reported an important conversation. Go aheadcheck 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 ODonnell? Hes a great man. Who do we liberals love to hate? The unionized clerk in a grocery store! In this way, you see our soulsand the plutocrats route to more power.