Sunday, July 27, 2014

Robert Reich: Ryan's poverty plan a "serious one"

Haven't we heard this before?  Fool me once.
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

It is no wonder American workers and the middle class, perhaps more than the population of any other advanced capitalist economy, have nothing but disdain for politicians. It is a natural response to having very limited choices when it comes to voting and political parties.

We have seen the decline in living standards over the years no matter which party is in power.  The Democrats controlled both houses and the presidency during the Carter years and also during the first two years of the Clinton’s first term.

It is easier for this writer to read their views than to actually watch them on TV it’s so unsavory. I caught Hilary Clinton on TV the other day talking about foreign policy and everyone knows US foreign policy is a catastrophe, especially for its weaker victims.

But I caught a few minutes on ABC ‘s “This Week” today as standard bearers from the two Wall Street parties talked about the Paul Ryan plan for dealing with poverty. Robert Reich, a major theoretician of capitalism and part of the administration that brought us NAFTA and threw working class women off of welfare, says Ryan’s plan for dealing with poverty in the US is a “serious one”.  Reich goes even further saying that “….frankly, I’m very impressed.”  Donna Brazille, the Democratic Party strategist welcomes the plan too excepting that it leaves out raising the minimum wage, something panelist SE Cupp from CNN, obviously a Republican, says won’t solve poverty. Apparently we must not be as concerned about take home pay as these folks are about take home profits.

Of course, doubling one’s pay is definitely an improvement, but he Democrats with their calls for a higher minimum wage and the Republicans, saddled as they are with the extreme right wing Tea Party types, are responding to the mood and increasing anger that exists beneath the surface of US society as poverty grows and the inequality gap widens.
Those I have referred to in the past as the New Populists, types like Reich and Warren, are the more insidious danger.

What we see here is representatives of US capitalism bickering among themselves over how best to undermine radicalism among workers and the poor and derail any independent social or political movement of the working class.  It’s all about “Dialogue” between Democrats and Republicans and “reaching across the aisle.”  Genuine workers’ political representatives would not be trying to “reach” any sort of consensus with these people except one that was forced on them by the power of the movement on the ground, in the workplace, communities and schools. Or, in another scenario, forced on our movement due to the balance of class forces at any given time. In other words, when we are force to retreat in order to strengthen our forces for the next offensive.

This much most workers understand which is why we have withdrawn from the political arena in the millions; workers are not fooled by this gathering of thieves.  Reich and Warren and others like them will be welcomed by the liberals for their salvation as they cannot envisage that workers can lead or govern society and cling to the non-existent liberal wing of the capitalist class in desperation. The new populists will say what the liberals want to hear, but no solution will come from this camp. It is the united and independent movement of the working class and direct action tactics that will drive back their austerity agenda.

One of the most revered of the liberal politicians is Barbara Lee here in California. She was completely absent as transit workers went through a summer of hell last year defending their standard of living. She also claims to be a friend of the Palestinians in their struggle for survival against the genocidal onslaught the Zionists are waging in Gaza yet she voted to give the Zionist regime million more dollars in military hardware.

Robert Reich in his movie, Inequality For All never uses the term “working class”, “How much inequality can we have and still have capitalism?” he says, and this reveals his concerns. He reads history, he knows about Flint 1936, the great uprising of 1887, the wars in textiles, auto, steel and of course the Civil Rights struggle. He is aware of the rich, militant history of the US working class and it is this that he fears.  Both sides of these debates are simply two wings of the 1% trying to figure out how to prevent a social explosion that will occur if poverty and inequality are not addressed.  Reich and his ilk are more insidious because they portray themselves as our friends.

The political system is a set up and very undemocratic, every American knows this. The campaigning starts a couple of years before the election and maybe $2 billion or more is spent bribing anyone who can be of service and molding public opinion through their control of the mass media.  That this is done yet millions recognize it for what it is shows that in the last analysis, consciousness has a material base. 

The main problem is that people do not think anything can be done, “You can’t fight city hall” is the term and why fight when you believe only defeat will result?  We have no political party of our own and the leaders of the labor movement are all pro-market and the socialist left has no influence in the working class of any significance which has to be addressed if things are to change.

Workers know little about our own history so we get no sense of the monumental struggles that got us here against the most ruthless of enemies.  The heads of organized labor are as terrified of their own members and the working class as a whole as Reich is. And why not?  They have the same worldview. They worship the market and any movement of the working class for them can only lead to chaos.  The labor hierarchy’s hero of the 1930’s is Roosevelt, but Roosevelt was an astute bourgeois.  He, like the miner’s leaders John L Lewis saw the dangers, realized all could be lost if something wasn’t done.  As Broadus Mitchell wrote in his book Depression Decade, “If those who had long made excuses for capitalist shortcomings were to be infected with collectivism, they preferred catching chicken pox from Keynes rather than smallpox from Marx.”*

We know that the US capitalist class and their government is a violent master.  We see the homes lost, the bankruptcies and failed businesses because sickness descends upon a family. We see more than 2 million in Jail and we see how this state responds to those that reject US corporate dominance of their economies.

As I watched these politicians for about 7 minutes this morning it was only useful as it gave me something to write about.  They are all united on the basics that the working class will pay for capitalist crisis. 

There will be major struggles in the not so distant future as workers attempt to resolve the crisis in our own way. We are seeing these develop already like the fight back against water shutoffs in Detroit, the movement against fracking and against the attacks on education.  These will have to be drawn in to a national movement to be successful.  Organized labor will also be convulsed by the movement as it reaches inside the workplaces and union halls. The stifling bureaucracy atop organized labor has slowed the movement for change but cannot prevent it from transforming these bodies.

The difficult question is not will this happen but when.

*Broadus Mitchell The Economic History of the United States Volume 1X, “Depression Decade”.  P 126.

1 comment:

David Bensman said...

At this moment in history, attacking Elizabeth Warren and Barbara Lee seems sectarian and nonsensical to me. Warren is speaking up about Wall Street's rigged game, and proposing ways to regulate the financial institutions - bring them under effective democratic oversight, make them responsible for making capital available for the real economy And Barbara Lee has been an invaluable for standing up to the permanent war machine.