Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Anti-Oligarchy is not Anti-Capitalism

Reports in the media (and most conservatives, natch) have been attempting to label the OWS movement as anti-capitalist, and the label seems to be catching on, but nothing could be further from the truth. What "We Are the 99%" clearly and directly signifies is that OWS is anti-oligarchy, not anti-capitalism. And anti-oligarchy is easily the best label for the movement.

Oligarchies have always been, and will always be, the greatest enemy of collective social good. Oligarchies concentrate power in the hands of the few, disempower the rest and impose their rule upon the masses. Throughout most of recorded history, oligarchies governed the masses directly -- as divine monarchs, as non-democratically-elected dictators, or as the heads of religious nation-states (and sometimes as a combination of all three).

Monarchies are nothing more than oligarchies that allow families to remain in power. Theocracies are oligarchies that allow a few, connected, true-believers to remain in power. Dictatorships are non-elected oligarchies that allow a few friends to remain in power through military force, police control and propaganda.
But the enlightenment brought about the end of those types of oligarchic rule for western European nations and the United States. A transparent, representative democracy, with strict, unbreakable term limits, and inalienable human rights has forever removed the possibility of direct rule by a monarch or dictator. And the separation of church and state has forever removed the possibility of a theocracy coming to power by some state-issued decree. 
But oligarchies refuse to die, and the power hungry will always seek more power. Having lost the ability to rule with military force, police control or government decree, capitalistic oligarchies instead try to rule by wealth. Thirty years ago the growing capitalistic oligarchy in the United States began using its small concentration of wealth to influence the government to favor it. The pro-oligarchy government of Reagan proved extremely pliable and the oligarchy grew more wealthy as the government titled playing fields in its favor. This larger concentration of wealth allowed the oligarchy to buy still more government influence, which allowed it to consolidate even more wealth and the cycle continued unabated for the last thirty years. 
Our current oligarchy found corruptible, money-hungry politicians on both sides of the political aisle, but its strongest ally has undoubtedly been the modern GOP. In the last three decades the Republican Party has proven itself pro-oligarchy in absolutely everything it does--and not just in its capitalist wing, but in its theocratic wing as well (though often it seems GOP leaders pander to the theocrats). These two factions sometimes clash as the oligarchic heads of both groups try to assert and assume power over the other, but both have found a very sympathetic ally in the GOP; a political party that now proudly announces declares itself the defender of the powerful against the weak
The GOP appointed a steady stream of pro-oligarchy federal judges who eventually ruled that powerful, oligarchic corporations (both foreign and domestic) could use their concentrated wealth, money and power to influence our democratic elections. The modern GOP has also proposed, and enacted, a never-ending stream of pro-oligarchy tax schemes that takes money from the poor to give to the rich. And Republicans have busted unions and removed the regulations that kept capitalistic oligarchies in check for nearly fifty years.
All of the GOP's pro-oligarchy deregulating, union-busting and regressive-lawmaking sabotaged the work that FDR, a traitor to his oligarchy, put in place. The rules, regulations and social programs instituted during his administration helped the United States experience the strongest two decades of economic growth in its history. 
FDR, like millions of others, fought against the run-amok, capitalistic oligarchy because all oligarchies are unfair. All oligarchies destroy and damage social order. All of them make life worse, not better. All of them ruin lives. Which means that no oligarchy will be readily accepted by the masses without the strategic use of deception, lies, suppression of knowledge and propaganda. And the GOP-assisted, capitalist oligarchy's use of all four today is no different. 
So beware when the oligarchy tells you that the OWS movement is anti-capitalist. Beware the oligarchy telling you that big government is what you should fear. Beware the oligarchy telling you not to rely on an ineffective government--especially when the oligarchy is the one that has worked so hard to make it so.
Remember that a transparent, representative democracy of the people, with strict, unbreakable term limits and inalienable human rights, has forever removed the possibility of direct rule over the masses by dictators and theocrats. And, since this is the case, remember that the oligarchy opposes progressive taxation, regulations, health care, strong unions and everything else it labels "big government" because those things are direct threats to the oligarchy's power, not yours.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Easterbrook is Still an Idiot

Well my last three posts have now been anti-Easterbook, but really, I'm not planning this, I've just been busy and he's been the guy who's been making my blood boil the most recently. And, in any case, this fisking isn't courtesy of me, it comes from Andrew Gelman who, unfortunately, seems to have discovered Gregg Easterbrook for the first time:
I don't know when I've seen political writing quote so misinformed as this. It's a bizarre mixture of cliches, non-sequitors, and outright mistakes. The author is Gregg Easterbrook and he's writing for Reuters.
At this point in the 1992 election cycle, the elder George Bush held an 89 percent approval rating. . . . Clinton beat a popular incumbent with a fantastic approval rating. For the 2012 election, Barack Obama is just as vulnerable as the elder Bush, if not even more so. Obama currently has an approval rating of 23 percent.
This is all fine, except that:

1. It's not true that at this point in the 1992 election cycle, the elder George Bush held an 89 percent approval rating.

2. It's not true that Obama currently has an approval rating of 23 percent.

Now let's move from Easterbrookworld to reality.

1. According to Gallup, on 13 Oct 1991, George H. W. Bush's ratings (data from the Roper Center) were 66% approve, 28% disapprove, 7% no opinion (not adding to exactly 100% due to roundoff error, I assume).

2. Gallup estimates Obama's job approval as of 11 Oct 2011 as 38%.

So where did Easterbrook get his numbers? 89% was George H. W. Bush's highest approval rate ever, and it was at the beginning of March 1991. As for Obama's 23%, this comes from a Rasmussen report that Easterbrook linked to but misread: 28% "strongly approve" of Obama's job performance but about 45% approve in total, according to Rasmussen's own graph.

But wait, there's more! Easterbrook continues:
But don't sell Huntsman short because he is low in the polls - Obama had been at that point, too. 
That would be interesting-if true. But at this point Easterbrook is 0 for 2 on truth, so I'm not inclined to trust him. Instead, I'll look the numbers up myself. Luckily I have an internet connection:

As of 14 Oct 2011, Gallup gives Huntsman 2% support among Republicans. That puts him behind the leaders: No Opinion and Mitt Romney (tied at 20% each), Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachman. Rick Santorum is ahead of Huntsman, for chrissake. Google that, pal!
What about Obama? How was he polling in October, 2007? He was in second place with 21% support (compared to Hillary Clinton at 50%). So, yeah, anything could happen-but there's a big difference between 21% and 2%.

The real mystery here is how this got published by Reuters. They're a reputable news organization, right?
Easterbrook is listed as "a contributing editor to The Atlantic, The New Republic and The Washington Monthly, a former visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and distinguished fellow of the Fulbright Foundation, and writes the Tuesday Morning Quarterback column for ESPN."

P.S. I found the George H. W. Bush approval ratings by Googling. It's a great trick. Maybe one of Easterbrook's editors at Reuters could tell him about it.

P.P.S. Why do I waste my time commenting on this stuff? We spend so much time gathering and understanding these data, it's just depressing to see people just make poop up and then spread it around like this. I guess it's like tenure in academia. A tenured professor can do (almost) anything he wants and still get paid to teach classes. Similarly, Easterbrook is so well-connected that he can continue publishing forever in top outlets. I can only assume that nobody edits his pieces for content, just as nobody sits in on my classes to check that I'm actually teaching what I say I am. All Easterbrook has to do is show up on time and he gets the job.

I know some people criticize Thomas Friedman (say) on the same grounds, that he can just publish whatever half-baked ideas he wants and get it in the New York Times. But I think Easterbrook is much much worse than Friedman. Friedman's speculations are often interesting, whereas Easterbrook is just spouting cliches that would make Theodore H. White spin in his grave. And supporting it with numbers that are so wrong as to be beyond garbled. Can't Easterbrook do like a real journalist and interview some cab drivers or something?
I like Reuters and although I blame them for allowing Easterbrook to write anything and still call himself an expert at Brookings when he's not, I think they have time to learn. After all the same organization that employs Felix Salmon, can't also employ (for long) Gregg Easterbrook. Can it?