Union Fear, Betrayal, and Decline

Strikes involving more than 1,000 workers
Strikes involving more than 1,000 workers

The 2008 primaries were a lesson to me. Neither Clinton nor Obama were particularly pro-union, but they received many of the union endorsements. I remember in particular the firefighters, who didn’t endorse any of the big three (Clinton, Obama, Edwards), but endorsed Dodd, whom they knew had no chance of winning. I called them on it and was told by their media guy that it was a case of true belief.

The other candidate they had been considering was Edwards, who actually had a chance of winning the nomination.

The thing about Edwards is that in order to win the nomination he needed the unions; it wasn’t going to happen otherwise.

He didn’t get enough of them and he lost.

Obama won and the unions didn’t get their number one priority: card check union certification.  One can argue it wasn’t doable, but there was never any sign it was a priority for Obama.

Why should it be? He hadn’t needed the unions to win, he had just needed them not to coalesce behind another major candidate.

Edwards, having won, would have owed his victory to the unions and he would have known it.  You dance with the one who brung you, as Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulrooney once remarked.

Obama spent his first four years largely ignoring unions. One he didn’t ignore was the teachers union. Instead, the Obama administration acted very favorably towards the idea of charter schools (the bulk of the research shows that charter schools perform slightly worse than public schools). So, before the deadline for nominations of democratic primary nominees for the 2012 election, the teachers national decided to support a primary candidate to send a warning shot across Obama’s—no, they didn’t do that. They endorsed him pre-emptively.

Unions are risk-averse. Extremely risk-averse. They have spent the last 35 years in decline (since 1980) and, as a group, they never make any serious attempt to make up lost ground. Internally, too many of them acquiesced to and negotiated for two-tier contracts, which favor older workers over newer ones, and split union solidarity.

They are unwilling to take a run on anyone who might actually help turn their situation around.

I was reminded of this by the way Rahm Emanuel has retained much union support in Chicago. Some unions were heavily behind his challenger, Jesus G. Garcia, but many have backed Rahm. As a result, Rahm is almost certainly going to win (unless the polls are way off). Rahm was terrible, especially for the teachers (who, to give them their due, are fighting him, hard), though he did throw some scraps to a few unions.

Still, again, Garcia would owe the union movement his victory if he won and there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t act on that debt. Rahm, on the other hand is the status quo—slow (and sometimes not-so-slow) decline.

If you won’t fight when your life is on the line (and card check was and is an existential issue for unions), then you will die. Unions have chosen, again and again, not to fight, or, more accurately, enough of them have chosen to collaborate. The first, second, and last rule of unionization is solidarity. Union members must negotiate and fight together and so must unions. Their failure to do this internally or externally is why their decline continues. It will continue, virtually irreversibly, until they learn two elemental lessons:  1) act with solidarity and; 2) never collaborate with your oppressors.

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The Left Wing Case Against Obama and Obama’s Next Term

Matt Stoller’s made the left wing case against Obama, and then responded to his critics, who, he’s right, don’t address his points.  The two articles are excellent, and you should read them.

I haven’t really bothered writing that much about the election because it simply isn’t very important, despite the hysteria.  Romney would probably be worse on the margins, but the difference is at the margins, except, possibly, for the Supreme Court.  The most intellectually honest argument for Obama can be summarized as “he’s an evil man who has gutted the constitution and done everything possible to enshrine oligarchy, but he’ll probably appoint a Justice who will keep Roe. v. Wade and a few shattered spars of the Bill of Rights around.”

The key thing to realize is that Obama is the President who normalized Bush’s Republic.  He normalized routine civil liberties violations, normalized anti-immigrant raids, normalized the eternal war on terror, pushed executive power even further than Bush with a unilateral war against the wishes of Congress in Libya and by arrogating for himself the right to kill any American.  He made sure the rich not only stayed rich, in the face of a financial collapse which he could have used to break their power, but has increased inequality significantly.  The wealth and wages of ordinary Americans have dropped, the portion of the country’s income going to the wealthy has increased, and the US is well on its way to becoming a corrupt petro-state.  Nothing is more hilarious than Mayor Bloomberg endorsing Obama because of climate change, when Obama has quite deliberately overseen a huge increase in hydrocarbon production and openly embraces so-called “clean” coal.   Obama may agree that Global Warming exists, and Romney may pretend that it doesn’t, but the policies of the two are functionally identical and the money Obama spent on renewables was so horribly misspent as to do nothing but discredit the industry.

The argument for “who cares” is simple enough.  Yes, Romney will be worse than Obama in certain respects, but if Obama is not in charge, then the Democrats are far more likely to oppose both civil liberties absuses and efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Let me tell you how Obama’s second term will play out.

1) He will appoint a milquetoast “liberal” to the Supremes.  You’ll keep the remains of Roe vs. Wade, but he’ll keep doing things like overruling Plan B as an over the counter medication, because he doesn’t really believe that girls impregnated by their fathers have a right not to have the child.  And every case that enshrines oligarchy, like Citizens United or HCR, will go for oligarchy (you aren’t stupid enough to think that Roberts switched his vote for any reasons other than to give insurance companies their bailout and gut Medicaid, I hope.)

2) The economy will struggle along till he gets his grand bargain, then it will absolutely crater.  You’ve got a couple years of lousy but not awful economy at most, use it, because years 3 and 4 are going to be awful.

3) He will make a Grand Bargain.  Winning by only a small margin of the popular vote will help with this.  The rich will pay slightly more, but most of the money will come from cutting Social Security, Medicare and other such programs.  The Republicans will give him just enough votes to pass it, so that it will be the Democrats who have gutted SS and Medicare.

4) The Republicans will nominate a right wing crazy in 2016.  He will stand a good chance of winning, because the Democrats, having cut SS and Medicare will now stand for nothing other than “fear the Supreme Court!”  In fact, the Republicans will run as the defenders of SS and Medicare.

Because the Republican Congress is now extremely far right wing, in fact reactionary, when they get their President, they will be able to do almost anything they want.  And all they will need is the House and 51 votes in the Senate, because they will not play stupid games about the filibuster, they’ll pass under reconciliation or just do it with 51 votes and tell everyone to go fuck themselves.  There will be no nonsense about super-majorities.  HCR will, at that point, be removed or gutted.  The court decision making Medicaid optional, however, will remain the law of the land.

Reelecting Obama does mean a better economy for the next couple years.  It does mean that people who can afford health care with mandated issue, and who must have it to make the bridge to Medicare, will get that.  It means nothing else.  It will gut the Democratic coalition, it will make a reactionary right wing president far more likely, it will kick the restructuring of the economy which is needed down the road further, making it more difficult when, or rather if, it ever occurs.  It will make the Grand Compromise, meaning SS and Medicare cuts, far more possible than if Romney were in power and Democrats were opposing the bill.  And yes, poor women will still be able, at least theoretically, to get abortions (upper middle class women are always able to get them, since they can travel.)

Is it worth it?  I don’t, personally, think so.  As with Matt Stoller and many others, if I could vote, I wouldn’t vote Obama.  To be clear, I wouldn’t vote for Romney either.  I’d probably vote for Jill Stein, making a third party viable starts with, oh, voting for it

On edit: one more thing, there is no excuse to vote for Obama if you are not in a swing state.  NONE.  Vote third party.

Ron Paul Hysteria

So, I’m noticing a ton of attacks on Ron Paul from progressives.  The reason is simple enough, Ron Paul is great on some key things the left cares about, and horrible on others.  His last ad in Iowa says he’d ban abortion, for example.  On the other hand, he wants to withdraw all troops from foreign wars and bring back the troops from America’s far flung military bases.  And he’s the only candidate to unequivocally state that he would never order the assassination of Americans.

Paul’s economic policies are straight up insane, and would throw the world into a full catastrophic Great Depression, even worse than the one we’re in now and worse than the one in the 30s.

But the problem is that current policies by more “mainstream” candidates just get to the same place more slowly.  And maybe not even that much more slowly.  Numerian thinks this could be the year of the big crash, for example, one where even the first world has food shortages and so on.

We’re going to get there.  There is a consensus for austerity amongst the transnational developed world elites which is breathtaking in its unanimity, imperviousness to argument and lack of regard for democratic niceties.  There is no consensus on how to deal with the oil bottleneck, no plan for actually dealing with the leveraged debt overhang, no understanding of how to create real growth, as opposed to bubbles.  If they do manage to hang on, what will happen is a huge non-conventional oil boom (read Fracking) and that will devastate ground water and turn large areas into wastelands.  Nor will it last all that long or feel all that good (it’ll be better than now, but probably not even as good as the best Bush years.)

After that I see no scenario in which things don’t crack up, completely.

So Ron Paul will cause a crack up, possibly a little bit ahead of schedule.  That sucks for old people who might have died before the world went to hell, but for young people, you might as well get it done.

But Ron Paul also might do some real damage to the military industrial complex.  There is no route forward for the US which does not require taking that misallocated effort, and using it for other things.  So this is necessary.

Also the movement of manufacturing and other expertise overseas means that the US labor force is a wasting asset.  The longer the decline goes on the fewer people there will be with the skills to bootstrap back up, the less of an industrial base other than defense there will be, and so on.  Infrastructure will be more degraded, not less, and so on.  So from that point of view, cracking up sooner, rather than later, is preferable because it leaves a clearer path to the future.

But let’s move back to the title.  The reason Ron Paul causes hysterics is he pits interest group against interest group, morality vs. morality. He’s a different kind of lesser evil.  If Afghans got to vote in the US election, who would they vote for?  How important is Habeas Corpus to you really?  What about pot legalization?  Etc…  Ron Paul is awful on some issues, and very good on others.  Are abortion rights more important than dead Afghans and Pakistanis at weddings?  (I don’t claim they are, or aren’t, I simply note Paul forces you to make that choice.)  And Paul would end all bank bailouts.  Hate the banksters?  Think they’re the key problem?  Paul’s your man.

Obama is objectively awful.  Paul is objectively awful.  But unlike Romney, Paul is objectively awful in different ways than Obama.  Romney would just be Obama, but slightly worse.  If you’re going to choose a lesser evil, you might as well choose Obama.  But when it comes to Paul vs. Obama the equation changes.

And that’s why many progressives are attacking any other progressive who says anything good about Paul, because Paul threatens to split the left, and because Paul makes progressives decide what they value most.

Liz Warren decides to lose to Scott Brown

Seems her comment on #Occupy is that people should obey the law, and she wasn’t talking about the cops.  Oh, and she’s against marijuana legalization.

Leaving all else aside, this is awful politics in the most technical sense.  Her statement, if she didn’t want to endorse #Occupy should have been something like “this movement shows that until we reform Wall Street and the Banking system unrest will continue to grow,” or something similar.  As a politician, when asked about something, say it proves the need for your program.  In Warren’s case it’s even plausible.

But let’s be frank, she is a stalking horse for Obama. She is deep in his pockets, supported strongly by his organization.  She is the spokesman for “saving the Middle Class”, saying things which Obama can no longer say and pass the laugh test.  The problem with “saving the Middle Class” is that for the people in #Occupy movement, it’s too late.  Most of the core people are no longer in the middle class.  Saving those still in it will do nothing for them, even if the policies suggested would work, which they wouldn’t.

But what this mainly reveals is that Warren is incompetent.  She has just told most of the left, the very people who are reluctant to work for Obama, that there is no real point in working for her.  She may believe in some consumer protections, but she’s still a conservative Democrat, who just wants to tweak the status quo.  She regards the #Occupy people as illegitimate, as law breakers.  She wants to keep the war on drugs going, even though, as a Law Prof, she has to know it doesn’t work and causes unimaginable suffering.

Contemptible and incompetent.

A blast from the past and a reminder about the future

Courtesy of the Black Agenda Report:

As election year 2008 began, Obama took the most pro-banker, laissez faire capitalist position on home foreclosures of the three major Democratic presidential candidates. John Edwards backed a mandatory moratorium on foreclosures and a freeze on interest rates, while Hillary Clinton supported a “voluntary” halt and $30 billion in federal aid to homeowners. But Obama opposed any moratorium, mandatory or voluntary, and balked at cash for homeowners and stricken communities

You don’t always get what you vote for, but the surprises aren’t usually on the upside.  Obama was given the opportunity to be the new FDR.  The financial crisis was a huge opportunity to break the power of the financial industry and the rich for a generation, and in so doing make it possible to have an economy which worked for everyone, to fix America’s energy problems, and to have universal healthcare.

Instead what happened is that Obama bailed out the rich and the financial industry, who were bankrupt, then refused to prosecute them for systemic fraud.  He did so in a way which left, by and large, the exact same class of people in charge of the financial industry, made the remaining banks bigger and more powerful, restored the wealth of the rich to pre-crisis levels and restored their profits.  Meanwhile employment has still not recovered (ignore the unemployment rate, it is a lie), wages are flat or declining, real inflation is through the roof, the price of oil is skyrocketing and the current discussion in DC is how much the poor and middle class should get screwed out of their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, in order to keep the rich filthy rich.  Oh, and how much tax cuts the rich should get.

America is in terminal decline.  There may be a lot of ruin in a nation, as Adam Smith wrote, but that amount is not infinite.  The next chance you get to turn this around you will be starting from a much worse position.  A lot more pain will be unavoidable.

Obama is not turning things around, what he is doing is negotiating with Republicans how fast the decline will be, and how much and how fast it is necessary to fuck ordinary Americans in order to keep the rich rich.  If Obama wins another term, he will continue to negotiate the decline, then, odds are very high, a Republican will get in, and slam his foot on the accelerator of collapse.

This is why Obama must lose in 2012. I would prefer that he lose to a Democrat in a primary, then that Democrat wins, but he must lose regardless.  If he loses to a Republican, then 2016 you get a chance to put someone in charge who might do the right things (or even just some of them.)

No, those odds aren’t good. They suck.  Every part of them sucks.  And even if you get a Dem in 2016, you’ll probably choose the right most candidate, just like  you did last time, and he’ll go back to negotiating with Republicans over what parts of the corpse of America’s middle class they should dine on next.  “No, no, eat one kidney first, they only need one to survive, so that’s not too cruel.”

But it is still your best chance.  Otherwise you’re looking at full, Russian-style collapse.  What comes out the other end, I don’t know, but  you really won’t enjoy getting there.

And yes, if a Republican gets in in 2012, that’ll be awful. Just awful.  But it’s not like a Republican is never going to be president ever again.  That’s not on the agenda, that’s not possible.  It will happen, and he will substantially cater to the Teabaggers.  He will trash your country.  That’s baked into the cake now, all you can choose is how soon it happens, and work to replace him with someone who might do the right thing.

Remember, the question is not “if” this will happen, it is when.  The sooner you get it over with, the sooner you have another chance to get it right, and the less decline the US will have suffered. If President Teabag gets in after 4 years of Obama, the US will be in better shape at the start of his wrecking than it will be if he gets in after 8 years of Obama.  Obama is a disaster, who is making things worse, not better.  He’s just making it worse more slowly than a Republican.

Independents Return to Obama…

… now that the election is over.  And I’m going to agree with Mandos, some people really do want “bipartisanship” of the sort Obama is now offering.  Or, more accurately, they like Obama now that he is moderating the governing party (the Republicans, who are actually driving policy now.)

The problem is (and this is a mirror of the warning I gave in early 2009) that the current most likely policies (as “compromised” with the House Pubs), which they think they approve of, are going to put the economy even further into a hole.  Give it a year to 18 months and the current economy is going to be a susperating wound, and it won’t matter that “independents” thought they wanted austerity, they’ll vote based on the results of the policies.

Or to put it another way, good for Obama for improving his poll ratings so close to an elec…


Thinking more than one move in advance=good.

And good policy=good politics.  Bleeding the patient when he’s anemic, even if that’s what he wants, won’t make the patient happy with you more than briefly.

The Primary Obama Movement Begins Today

The 2010 electoral massacre is over and Democrats are licking their wounds.

Let me put it simply, what went wrong went wrong from the very top of the party.  In both political and policy terms, the President of the United States, the head of the Democratic party, created this disaster.

Nothing tracks electoral success better than the economy.  Barack Obama did not do what it took to pull the economy out of the doldrums.  This is true both with regards to the stimulus, which was too small, too larded up with tax cuts and too ineffective and with regards to the Federal Reserve, where Obama’s chosen chairman Ben Bernanke is about to drop stimulus (nicknamed Quantitative easing 2) on the economy after the election instead of doing it before the election. There was no economic reason not to do it months ago, when it would have helped both struggling Americans and Democrats.

Barack Obama took pains to let down or gratuitously harm virtually every major Democratic constituency. Whether it was increasing deportations of Hispanics, whether it was putting in a Presidential order against Federal money being used for abortions which was more restrictive than Rep. Stupak had demanded, whether it was wholesale violation of civil rights climaxing with the claim that he had the right to assassinate American citizens, whether it was trading away the public option to corporate interests then insisting for months he hadn’t, whether it was not moving aggressively on card check (EFCA) for unions, or whether it was constantly stymying attempts to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Barack Obama was there making sure that whatever could be done to demoralize the base was done.

Meanwhile, the majority of Americans think that the policies Obama pursued were socialistic, progressive or liberal.  They think this is what left-wing governance looks like.  In 2 years Obama has managed to discredit the left, possibly for a generation.

Oh no, Republicans!

The argument against running a 2012 primary challenger against Obama should be familiar to all of us.  It is the argument of fear.  The argument of the lesser evil.  Primarying Obama makes a Republican win more likely, and if a Republican president gets in, it will be so much worse for you!  No matter how bad Obama is, President Teabag will be worse.

That’s the truth.  The stone cold truth.  Republicans will be worse and a primary makes it more likely that Republicans will win.

Here’s another stone cold truth.  If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.  Obama and Democrats had a historic chance to fix America.  The rich who run America, whom the Supreme Court in Citizens United gave permission to outright buy elections, could have been broken when Obama took power.  All that was necessary was to force them to take their losses.  Contrary to what apologists for wealth have told you, this would not have meant disaster for the economy, there were ways to protect regular Americans while making the rich take their losses.

Instead Barack Obama, as in so many other ways, continued Bush’s policies, and kept the rich bailed out. The end result has not only been the tsunami of foreclosure issues which still threaten to swamp the banks, has not only been trillions in dollars of taxpayer money being used to keep rich people rich (much more money than was spent on the stimulus), it has been the wholesale transfer of money from poor to rich: an absolute decline in total wages, average wages and median wages of ordinary Americans, while Wall Street pays themselves even higher bonuses than before, gives record money to Republicans and the rich pay themselves more.

America has been in long term decline for between 30 and 40 years, depending on how you count it.   It is no longer enough for Democrats to simply accept the new Republican norm every time they take power.  Accepting Bush’s wars, Bush’s economy and Bush’s civil liberties violations meant that Bush won. Obama institutionalized Bush.

This long term decline is in danger of becoming terminal.  The banks are still bankrupt, States and cities are in constant crisis, the housing crisis is nowhere near over.  Wages are dropping and jobs are being offshored.

The status quo of Democrats coming in after Republicans and accepting Republican policies as a fait accomplit must end.  If it does not, the US will experience a full-on meltdown.  Not a great depression like in the ’30s (though the US is in a Depression) but a meltdown like that which occurred in Russia after the collapse of the USSR, where the population actually declined, food was hard to find, brown outs were common, medicine was in short supply, and so on.

Any suggested policies or electoral politics which does not act to stop this terminal decline, this end of America’s golden age is unacceptable.

The price of this may well be that a Republican president gets in in 2012.  That will be bad, but if it happens it is a necessary sacrifice, because until one of the two major parties is one which will propose and then execute solutions which work, all Democrats do is slow down America’s terminal decline.  Better that President teabag gets in in 2012 and then there is a chance at a good President in 2016 than that the US have to wait till 2020 at the earliest.  And hey, a successful primary could cut this short four years, the primary candidate could win the primary and the election.  47% of Democrats want Obama primaried. That’s not because he has rock-solid support.

Obama must be primaried and he must be primaried from the left

The left must be seen to repudiate Obama, and they must be seen to take him down.  If the left does not do this, left wing politics and policies will be discredited with Obama.  This is important not as a matter of partisan or ideological preference, it is important because left wing policies work.  It is necessary to move back to strongly progressive taxation, it is necessary to force the rich to take their losses, it is necessary to deal with global warming, it is necessary to deal with the fact that the era of cheap oil is over, it is necessary to stop the offshoring engine which is destroyin the American middle class.

Only left wing solutions to these problems will work. America has spent 30 years, since Reagan, trying to fix its problems by going more and more right wing, and it has been a disaster.  Each additional step to the right has made the problem worse.

The first step to fixing America is fixing the Democratic party, and the first step in fixing the Democratic party is fixing Barack Obama and destroying, forever, publicly and in the most high profile way possible, the idea that Democrats can ignore and abuse their own base.  The lies spewed by corporate media figures who earn millions of dollars a year, that every time the Democrats lose, it is because they were too left wing, so more tax cuts are necessary, must end.

If you love your country, or if you’re concerned for the future of yourself or your children, primary Obama.  If you don’t, you may never get a chance to elect someone who will do what is necessary to save your country.