politics, society

UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME IS A LEFT-WING LIBERATION IDEAL THAT RISKS RIGHT-WING AUTHORITARIAN CONTROL

Universal Basic Income isn’t a new idea but it’s getting a lot of airtime lately and winning supporters, especially as the economics are shown to align with what seems like a clear and present social benefit. In short, U.B.I. means everyone in the country receives a minimum baseline income, from the government, to take care of the necessities of life. It’s usually presented as no-strings attached i.e. available for all, regardless of wealth or employment status, and it’s separate to provisions like welfare, social security, disability allowance. The economics square because it’s an injection into the circular flow, stimulating and stabilising local business, rents, high street spending, etc. Traditionally UBI has been advocated by the left wing as an egalitarian measure liberating the working class from poverty and resisted by the right as a handout encouraging the poor to refuse necessary menial jobs, contrary to the principles of austerity.

Now, democracy can be a way to elect a fair representative government and to an extent this is what it has brought about in most of the industrialised world. For this dynamic to continue working, however, against pressure from mature crony capitalism, the population must remain politically ‘woke’ to their best interests. Anything less than an educated – and vigilant – population results in vast swathes of the voter public susceptible to propaganda. This tends to be controlled by authority and corporate money, dangerous if left unchecked.

DEMOCRACY UNDER SIEGE

Authoritarian vested interests will always be on the lookout for ways to consolidate power. Corporations are immortal so work their profit agenda with patient manipulation, fixing on populism as an effective tool to condition the most naive sections of society via its worst instincts, to vote as best suits the agenda of vested interests. This can include voting away everyone’s rights, your freedom included.

The potential for a dictatorship of the voting majority is a systemic vulnerability, and it’s inherent to universal suffrage. Individual freedom comes with risk, including the potential to be suckered into a mobthink that enables authoritarians to make evil laws through apparently benign democratic institutions. This is playing out in the Brexit supporting working classes in the UK who’re enabling a national erosion of free movement and human rights. Ironically, they’ll be first to suffer the worst of the long-term consequences just as having been duped by the Conservatives in 2010 ended up being a vote for austerity and the corrosion of public services on which they most relied for quality of day-to-day life.

Frustrating dupes indeed yet unlikely to understand let alone thank anyone trying to point this out. To date, the entrenched interests have been content to imperfectly but exploit the credibility and docility of the electorate, admitting of periods of push back (i.e. left-wing governments). This, flattered by the advance of technology, has amounted to general progress for the middle class and, until the 2008 crash, the impression of a decade on decade improvement for the working classes too. The unbroken uptrend ended in the post-2008 recession.

The terrible twins austerity and populism have been the risky but audacious response of an establishment whose priority is continued shielding of their institutions and individuals from the consequences of the 2008 economic crisis. At some point there will be a voter backlash that brings a genuinely left-wing anti-establishment government into power. UBI will be on the agenda, an obvious antidote to austerity, and it’ll be a temptation for any benign government trying to protect and compensate those voters responsible for putting them in power. UBI will be an easy sell, no doubt. It’ll have enough popular support to win through, even in a climate of artificial fear and habitual xenophobia. Sadly, Universal Basic Income will also be the most dangerous risk for the long-term future of free society since the Second World War.

EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION

Education is the key to a genuinely robust democracy, but few countries have educated their citizens top to bottom. Recent governments on both sides of the Atlantic testify the truth of this vulnerability.

A “woke” voter public isn’t achieved through taught dogma, nor necessarily by dint of education to some middle class paradigm. Rather the electorate needs to be given a certain level of independent self-awareness. Lessons in pragmatic cynicism would be a good start – e.g. when facing any public narrative, focus on following the stakes, the money and the power – in short, the voter needs a toolset for cutting through rhetoric and propaganda and snake-oil salesmen that hoodwinks them into voting on their worst instincts. Without it, democracy is as likely to throw up authoritarian abuses of power as a non-democratic politburo; and with greater durability when it happens. The state powers-that-be know this.

Many countries approach broad qualitative education as a basic provision, seeing it as a safeguard against extremism and short-term fads that work against the national interest. In the US and the UK it’s been government policy to resist the creation of an awakened electorate at all costs. This mandate has been a consistent feature since the expansion of universal suffrage.

The anti-fact groupthink polarising British and American society today is an inevitable consequence of many decades’ anti-education legislation. It’s also playing out a corollary: gradual economic degradation relative to the rest of the world. This loss of ground had been mostly offset in the 20th century by ugly but utilitarian global economic imperialism – making the most of historical advantages – but can’t be kept from the people forever.

Poor education means an increasingly unproductive unemployable population. This is a bad long-term outlook that’s been clear for decades. It’s one trend that’ll compound the need for Universal Basic Income as calls grow for a solution to the increasing pressure on social security. Automation, likewise, continues to advance, making more and more useless the narrow vocational training most receive in British and American state schools (i.e. one that keeps the proletariat busy but needs no progressive higher education). 

Education nowadays needs to equip abstract lateral thinkers and adaptable problem solvers, but this will not happen. It is considered too dangerous by governments with a history of doubling down on perpetuating social divisions based on wealth, to prevent any kind of political awakening slipping in by the back door.

LEFT AND RIGHT

The Left has no history of express opposition to Universal Basic Income and will probably bring it into their manifesto as a necessary vote winner against the winning formula of populism and fear used by conservative opponents. At first, the Right will resist the “handout” mentality; while they remain in power.

In the ebb and flow of winner-takes-all electoral systems, the Left will get into power. UBI, pitched as an antidote to austerity, also is a practical quick-fix to the degraded welfare system. It’ll be demonstrated as economically manageable (even beneficial) while also simpatico with the extant capitalist paradigm. No boats need be unnecessarily rocked by bringing UBI into the mix.

The stability insured by introducing UBI will be a key point as it flips from being a thorny question of public spending to one where citizen rights, expediency, manifesto promise and state security align. It’s easy to see how UBI, as a government subsidy, will quickly gain support from entrenched business interests. Consider the plight of low-rent landlords and high street retailers. Support will quickly spread through the media to speed up UBI being sold to the population, establishing itself as a new civil expectation.

THE OPIATE CANNULA

The Right will have seen the wood for the trees by this point. They’ll consult their backroom think-tanks and progress to publicly wanting UBI to bring society closer to a stable paradigm. This stability is the key, however. For the Right it means helping to ringfence the hegemony of the 1%: the top stays at the top, the rest stay at the bottom. UBI can handle food and shelter and life’s necessities, and it won’t be hard for a government of either stripe to indoctrinate the electorate into voting for continuity long term.

UBI will become a gateway drug to perpetual populism, a democratic totalitarianism where the 1% rule forever and the 51% + always vote ‘the right way’. Take out ambition by conditioning an appropriately limiting school system and life for the lower classes becomes something akin to a pleasant reality show. The Left will have been suckered into supporting perpetual UBI because it seems like a liberation for the people, a solution to any burden on society to provide its citizens’ home, food and – on paper – freedom from oppression.

It may well be a kind of solution for these universal human needs, but then so would be a hospital bed and a never-ending opiate cannula. If the government were to propose the latter, one would correctly suspect it might abuse its status as the ‘dealer’. It shouldn’t be an enormous leap of the imagination to perceive how a society addicted to the no strings Universal Basic Income could see the creation of millions of docile proletariat voters easily manipulated ‘from above’ into acquiescent conformity. This subversion of mass voting includes underwriting an authoritarian government with all the firm foundations of modern democracy.

SAVE OUR SOULS

How will anyone persuade an uneducated, self-centred electorate to vote against such appealing short-term security as no strings attached Universal Basic Income? Telling them they’ll be voting away some abstract future freedoms will seem a flimsy tautology, more likely to trigger a knee-jerk reaction against than encourage people to reject UBI. What if the lumpen proletariat prefer comfortable subjugation in the safe embrace of permanent fascist totalitarianism? Comfort might matter more than freedom. And if the majority vote away freedoms they don’t care about, in return for the certainty of Universal Basic Income and its implicit absolution from annoyances like unfulfilled ambition or opportunity or difficult aspirations for self-improvement, what can (or should) the democratically powerless intellectual minority do to prevent it?

Standard
politics, society

DEMOCRAT BLUE or REPUBLICAN RED? FALSE DICHOTOMY DESIGNED TO DIVIDE AND RULE

Democrat Blue or Republican Red? It’s a simple binary choice, presented in various forms at various times, for the consideration of every adult in America.

Democrat Blue or Republican Red? Appropriated post-FDR by rival factions of corporate and lineage big capital, to ring-fence key voter demographics. It’s a false dichotomy, designed to divide and rule the American people, so entrenched power can exploit the many and reward the few without regulation or restriction.

Democrat Blue or Republican Red? Complex infrastructure, hierarchies of power, extensive secondary and tertiary organizations, ever-changing networks of politicians (and staff) jockeying for power and influence.

Democrat Blue or Republican Red? The debate rages endlessly across every type of media – print hard-copy, online, audio, televisual – and such is the intensity, eight out of ten Democrat Blues and a similar number of Republican Red spend their political lives locked together in tribal battle, diametrically opposing one another, without knowing what either party is doing on their behalf. Laws get made by those we elect. These laws change the reality of our day-to-day lives. Yet under 10% of  the electorate know (or try to know) what’s being done in their name. It is seldom being done on their behalf.

America is a democracy with universal adult suffrage. This is fundamental. In a free democracy we give every citizen one vote and all votes are of equal value. Equality of vote’s worth is essential. Voter wealth can’t be a factor.*

There are no qualifications needed to vote. The billionaire, the professor, the astronaut, the gold-medal winning athlete: all mark the ballot with a single vote worth no more and no less than the bankrupt, the farmer, the 7-11 clerk and the motel housekeeper with only a few words of English.

* We may fall short of this ideal, in real elections, but the standard must remain undegraded.

Democrat Blue or Republican Red?

Bottom line, in 2020, we have a polarizing political choice.

On the one hand, centrists: profit-based corporate feudalism i.e. the status quo crony-capitalism, with Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, etc.

On the other, progressives: social democrats, libertarian socialists, apologist neoliberals: degrees of regulating capital and socioeconomic safety net, i.e. disruption to power dynamics, with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, etc.

The candidates are a mix of elderly Baby Boomers, tough love American dreamers and CIA cat’s paws. For Bernie Sanders (78) and Joe Biden (77), this is a last chance saloon for top office. Sanders is the only candidate with the progressive honesty to force a change to the long-standing American paradigm. For Sanders, the stated aim is to pull America back from the brink by restoring government by principles of social democracy; of the people, for the people, by the people. For the others, the manifesto is less extreme.

“We have had years of Trump craziness. We just want a break from Republican neofascist excess.”center-left voters in the Midwest.

We want to rewind back to Obama.”black voters in the South, Midwest and Rust Belt.

“Bernie Sanders is an honest man. We have faith in his sincerity. But his policies are extreme. He would disrupt the American economy. His socialism would cause more harm than good.” centrist voters across all regions.

“America can’t afford programs like ‘healthcare for all’ or ‘free college education’. Fiscal conservatism is tough love, but necessary. Big government progressives like Bernie don’t understand the economics of running a country.”GOP-seeded talking points of floating voters nationwide.


It is important to understand how the American Dream, coming out of World War Two, got hijacked by the billionaires and corporations of the late 1940s and early 1950s. President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew it. Hence he tried to publish his Second Bill of Rights. Truman knew it. As did Eisenhower. Both retiring Presidents warned in stark terms what was happening.

John F. Kennedy, in 1961, was the first post-War President to challenge the entrenched paradigm of crony capitalists and corporate power. They killed him before he could challenge it. JFK’s brother Robert, Dr Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, all three assassinated in the space of a few years in the 1960s.

The establishment had grown bold, cold and practical as its hired guns used murder and violence to stamp out the rising popularity of liberal, socialist, civil rights, humanitarian, anti-corporate movements. Its significant success came in the early 1970s, installing

The paradigm of American power that we live under today was shocked into existence, starting with JFK’s murder in 1963. Traditional centrist Vice President Lyndon B Johnson took the place of the progressive JFK and, by the end of Johnson’s first term, he had changed what it meant to be an American Democrat. His successor, Richard Nixon, was the establishment darling—a shameless apologist for 1960s corporate crony-capitalism. He was the antithesis of Roosevelt-Eisenhower-Kennedy, but a continuity from LBJ.

Both Nixon (Republican) and LBJ (Democrat) were backed by a grand coalition of wealth. Nixon could be seen as an establishment overreach but LBJ did the greater damage to American politics. His subordination to entrenched big capital – consolidated from the exceptional profits of war and the unparalleled post-war economic growth – split the Democratic Party internally, setting up the centrist progressive dichotomy we know today.

LBJ brought ‘moderate’ Democrats in line with the fiscal policy of Nixon-Republicans and behind closed doors, they made a historical compact with the mega-corporations, media and the military industrial complex. They shut the American public out of this postmodern New Deal.

Executive and legislature became tools of business, for its own enrichment. Its role shifted to handling the smooth flow of corporate profit, unshackling banking regulation, a foreign policy designed to serve the interests of business and capitalize on America’s military strength.

Trickle down prosperity and long-term social stability had been part of the government’s mandate. Post-LBJ, fair wealth distribution became a matter of propaganda, not policy.

Blind faith in, and then commitment to, market-based decision took control of the Democratic Party of Roosevelt and Kennedy. The era of perpetual economic growth had begun.

LBJ was the prototype centrist or – as it’s called today – the progenitor of neoliberals and moderate centre-left politicians. Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Jimmy Carter, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bloomberg are all cut from the LBJ cloth. Tony Blair in the UK, Angela Merkel in Germany, Emmanuel Macron in France and a succession of Japanese Prime Ministers are also part of this political class.

The essential argument of sincere centrists and moderates is that, on the whole, capitalism works.

The moderate capitalists – until recently interchangeable with neoliberals – have lost faith in forcibly imposing socialism. They believe, on balance, that free markets and an infrastructure of corporate feudalism ensure the complex macroeconomics of stability, incentive, prosperity and competitive meritocracy work together, to allow Americans to be both free (to succeed or fail) and, because of the Constitution’s protection of individual rights, live out a version of be all you can be that properly rewards hard work, talent and potential.

While profit-based corporate feudalism has worked well (for many) since the 1950s, it’s also clear this model is becoming more extreme in its demands, eroding any pretence of trickle-down economics. It’s working for a smaller and smaller proportion of the Americans people each decade. Most economists agree that perpetual growth is unsustainable and, eventually, all roads lead to conflict or crash as system buckles and society has to pay. One way or another.

The 2008 Financial Crisis was a jolt out of complacency felt from top to bottom of society and in every state of the union. It might have been a wake-up call but short-term fiscal solutions allowed adaptive big capital hegemony to reassert ownership of the mechanisms of control faster than politicians could find the consensus needed to impose punishments, safeguards and restrictions to protect their autonomy.

Obama wasted a rare opportunity to regulate the financial corporate aristocracy – public support was with him – and instead the pace of organised transfer of wealth up the social ladder sped up. The richest got richer faster as the most powerful, best represented corporate capitalists consolidated their grip on federal, state and large city government.

Now, in 2020, the wealthiest 1% of America dominates the remaining 99%. Billionaire corporations ride roughshod over regulations and their influence over government policy is almost absolute. The relentless drive for growth and profit in the competitive global economy has inevitably put pressure on the American middle class, less prosperous, smaller than fifty years ago and a use-and-abuse business orthodoxy exposes and exploits every opportunity.

The lives of average working Americans have been growing markedly more difficult since the turn of the Millennium. Tens of millions toil without healthcare or job security, living paycheck to paycheck. This is the first generation since the Civil War where, despite all the technological and medical advances, the child’s expected lifespan is lower than that of the parents.

The LBJ-Biden moderates advocate soft pressure as the only safe, credible way to change the country for the better, and thus improve living standards for the nation. Their argument seeks to avoid sweeping reform, calling instead for practical cooperation that respects existing power structures while also carrying fair-minded Americans into a stable, forward-thinking consensus.

The gentle progress approach, in the moderate’s eyes, minimizes risk of disruption – which can cause economic hardship, especially for the most vulnerable – while trying to curb Republican and Trump excesses without breaking the continuity of 70 years of corporate capitalism that’s served America well.

The Sanders progressive movement identifies as the true FDR successor. At its heart are the clauses and principles of Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights. This seminal piece of legislation was supposed to be the next-stage of modern America, the end-game of the New Deal. It was the natural reward for an American people justifiably full of self-confidence on the back of defeating Hitler’s Germany and Hirohito’s Japan.

It’s worth going over this oft-overlooked period of American history – 1944 to 1960 – because the establishment has taken pains to whitewash it from the public’s collective memory.

Franklin D. Roosevelt had all today’s progressive policies covered in the Second Bill of Rights but big capital resisted it, foreshadowing the silent banking revolution in 2008/9, mid-1940s corporate power exerted itself, to take the Second Bill of Rights from the American people.

Power dynamics changed in favour of the 1%. Evidence of the bill buried, FDR state of the union footage deleted, politicians got bought and given strict instructions. The legacy of FDR was sidelined indefinitely.

The new government for the corporations by the politicians pioneered new tactics of control. The world had changed. Mass media covered the country in a vast net of instant communications potential. The noiseless corporate coup d’état weaponized exaggerated threat from Stalin’s Soviet Union, played up fears of nuclear holocaust, manufacturing Cold War paranoia about the “Red Menace” and the impending thread of Communist takeover. Events and truth became servants of political expediency.

As then, so today. These strategies are nothing new to a 21st-century observer. The aim of any group wanting to exploit another is, at first, to conceal their actions from public scrutiny. Hence the tactics used in the late 1940s and 1950s developed to include keeping the American public distracted, misdirected and docile at the ballot box.

Meanwhile, the ideals of the Founding Fathers were surgically altered to create a legitimacy for the profit-first monopoly on power of big corporations. In place of the Second Bill of Rights, lineage-capital invented the military industrial complex, one of the largest economic ecosystems in the history of the world. It was a stroke of economic genius, becoming a multipurpose exemplar of the new feudal-corporate America.

Most progressives, libertarians and free market centrists accept the urgent need for an American course correction. Government has become subsumed by the crony-capitalist class, subordinated to a trifecta monopoly of entrenched power, perpetual globalized growth, and a conditioned wage-slave electorate. It locks average Americans in service to a perpetual wealth redistribution, up the financial food chain to the so-called one percent.

Whatever one’s personal politics, breaking the nepotism of big capital and big corporate interests is the significant challenge of our time. Every other reform, from tackling poverty to climate change to foreign wars, requires government liberated from cronyism. Authority must be subject to the will of an informed free electorate.

Bernie Sanders and to an extent the Democratic Party’s progressive policy points are the 21st-century revival of the Second Bill of Rights. This is a “New Deal” legislation that foresaw the current unequal polarization of ‘the people’ and ‘the money’ from the very start.

Advocating a revival of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights isn’t radical or new. It is an attempt to put right the last 70 years, to solve a self-destructive national timeline of unchecked systemic corruption.

Universal healthcare, free education, civil rights and racial equality, jobs, housing, a pension when old and childcare for the young: these were to become enshrined in law, for every American, in 1944/5 but for FDR dying in office before he could make the Second Bill of Rights public.

Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama quote Roosevelt on the campaign trail, and the simple provisions of the lost Second Bill of Rights have become one of the main planks of modern progressive politics.

Whether you agree with the Biden/LBJ centrist model for government moderation or support the Sanders/FDR progressive movement for deep-rooted change, it’s worth being realistic about the long-term challenge: forcing an unwilling corporate-feudal aristocracy to give up power to de facto social democracy is a big ask; and an enormous risk.

Entrenched capital forces will fight tooth and nail, mobilizing a pantheon of interest groups who’ve gotten richer and more powerful by exploiting the current model of unregulated pursuit of profit.

Truth is, the boom-bust billionaires and lineage wealth have gotten used to their unrestricted power.[1] Their vast arsenal of wealth, media and infrastructure will be deployed to defend the vested interests. Expect a small army of foot-soldiers hired to disrupt, discredit and derail the prospect of change. Plan for the army of American corporate aristocracy to act subtly, sometimes unconsciously, to infiltrate (and undermine) every potential agent of change.
 
Controlling public opinion is the biggest game in town. Democracy, for as long as we still have universal adult suffrage, means there’ll always be a chance for Americans to come together and alter the nation’s course. Change is a threat the entrenched powers take seriously, as a daily life and death imperative, and change is possible for as long as America is a democracy of universal suffrage by free citizens.
 
Change is an extreme prospect. It must mean deep-rooted change to the state and federal economic paradigm. No change will take hold without the redirecting the flow of capital, away from nation-sized multinational corporations run by rich cartels of country-club privilege. It must liberate power from the oligarch billionaires, foreign and domestic. There’s no evidence it can be achieved in baby steps.

It’ll take an idealistic, uncompromising voter majority, educated in available facts and connected to a shared American history free of bullshit, to back honest candidates, determined and strong enough to force systemic change without giving in to establishment pressure.

Temptation to sell out, to surrender principles or else drown in the Washington DC swamp, is a perpetual challenge to every public servant with power – direct, indirect, potential, peripheral – over civic, state or federal money.

Winning the majority–let’s assume the progressive candidate is trustworthy and capable–will be an uphill battle. Election victory would be the start of a root-and-branch political war against the ruthless hydra of 20th century big business crony-capitalism.

It will need a victory in that war of attrition, to restore the American dream. Every significant smaller battle, including dozens of elections from 1960 onward, is a failed fight against corporate-sponsored legislation. As of today, let’s call a spade a spade: the aristocracy of big capital, entrenched power is winning the war.

Republican right-wing and religious evangelicals, Democratic Party centrists and moderates, Libertarian idealists and spoilers; each is co-opted, as and when conditions demand, to draw support from genuine progressive candidates commanding a majority. Voters are pliable. The forces at work against them are expert.

But who knows? Perhaps, unlike every earlier administration, one day the soft moderation approach will be enough to make America great again. It seems to be the only ‘change’ they can persuade the American public to support.


The wealthy don’t want a society that’s fair for all, if it intrudes on big capital profit.

But who knows? Perhaps this time, unlike all previous times, the soft consensus approach of moderate centrism will be enough to coerce power away from the corporate aristocracy and into the service of an average citizen. Maybe a Joe Biden or a Donald Trump will make America great again after all. History says not, however.

As we look back on the half century of past elections, it is mostly wins for reactionary, conservative, moderates and centrist candidates. Since the millennium there have been a handful of progressive victories but, Sanders and a scattering of representatives aside, no major position of power has been entrusted to a candidate advocating genuine change since JFK in 1961.

Democratic primaries and then, in November 2020, the Presidential, Congressional and widespread civic elections, are the coming opportunities for progressive Democrat course correction or – for believers in the corporate feudal model, whether it pays lip service to reactionary conservatism or consensus inclusion – Republican or moderate Democrat continuity.

Let’s not be fooled by the false dichotomy of Reds and Blues, however.

Choice exists but the Democrat Republican tribal colors are a misdirection. The reality is a contest between continuing a 70+ year timeline divergence that has become “the establishment” under which many prospered, versus a progressive ideal, a return to the American Dream exemplified in the New Deal. Equality of opportunity, FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, true to the vision of the Founding Fathers, but potentially disruptive to deep-rooted power structures.

Change will follow, whichever faction wins, for the better or the worse, but for which demographic?

[1] Entitlement may seem like injustice, to the poor, but to the entitled it is a natural order – or good fortune that’s nobody’s fault – or admitting the unequal power dynamic, entitlement excuses your concentration of money and power as an exception, good thing you’re enlightened.

Standard
people, politics, questions

PEOPLE VOTE FOR FANTASY OVER FACT REALITY AND I DON’T GET IT!

Watching the New Hampshire primary results roll in, it looks like a narrow Bernie Sanders victory over Buttigieg and Klobuchar – moderate, corporate Democrats – with ex-Vice President Biden and opportunist identity politician Elizabeth Warren falling short of 10% share of the vote. Mobs of ecstatic followers – or crowds of enthusiastic supporters, if you prefer not to think about the implications of a thousand human beings shouting in unison the same three syllables for minutes on end – assemble to make the ‘white noise’ for their candidates and speeches at podiums framed by star-spangled banners are sent out to deliver exhortations, platitudes and vows of exceptional patriotism to the world’s media.

So much so familiar.

What I don’t understand about today’s world – and a result like this, in a strongly libertarian traditionally non-conformist state, can be a useful paradigm – is this coming together of a very resilient bigger picture conservatism with what looks like the triumph of fiction over fact. All the fiction needs to do is deliver better feel-good, in the moment, than the prosaic fact; and it wins votes. Why doesn’t reality matter more than fantasy? The former has consequences. It impacts real lives. The latter is here today, gone tomorrow, like an evening’s narcotic indulgence?

Bernie Sanders, whatever one’s opinion of his analysis of society or the solution his platform proposes, is a politician with a long track record in public service. His background is consistent, his opposition to entrenched power well documented and his message to the electorate has a simple consistency. Democratic socialism. Healthcare for all. Education for all. Less money spent on foreign war. More taxes from tax-avoiding trillionaire corporations. Love it or loathe it, as an ideology, Sanders has been on message for decades. This is an example of ‘reality’. It’s documented by fact and embodied in this 79 year old Brooklyn Jewish man’s long and authentic American lifestory.

Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of a small city in Indiana with a few years in office and a mixed bag of results. He’s been running down the political middle of the American political road since college and has been making legitimate progress as a professional lawmaker moderating the attentions of dynamic business in a town much in need of investment and urban renewal. Buttigieg is an archetype of centrist, corporate Democratic Party outreach: good communicator, mainstream white skin – not white hair – with a single humanizing ‘flaw’ (he’s gay). Mayor Pete looks credible.

By rights Buttigieg should be at the start of a long career in public service, as yet untested and still to build a record of facts in the real world by which his credentials for President can be properly assessed. This lack of substance made him an underdog before the Democratic campaigns began but with the early backing of the Democratic Party heterodoxy and the heavily corporat mainstream media, an idealized Mayor Pete was lifted to national coverage. Audiences responded well. Pete may not have much on his public service record but twenty years of preparation for public speaking in front of the mirror served him well in the transition to photo opportunities with podiums and flags above stock price tickers and news media headline bars.

Here’s where I lose touch with the thinking of half my fellow voters. In the Democratic Party corporate headquarters, polling and performance showed sleepy Joe Biden wasn’t a hit with voters. He had none of Obama’s charisma and speaking ability. Biden reacted ornery when questioned by friendly interlocutors, which presaged disaster if he was ever placed on a stage with Donald Trump’s barfly provocation. What’s more, the white privilege entitlement – albeit with a mostly benign patrician heart – was alienating the rump of the Democratic voter base. Biden’s appeal to his long record in politics, achievements (by his own light) of some note, rather than winning plaudits for the fact was losing support for ‘too much detail’. No surprise the DNC switched horses to back Buttigieg.

What I don’t understand about Biden isn’t his crony-capitalist American exceptionalism but why the facts of his record of proven centrism is a voter loser where the promise-filled rhetorical vaguery of Buttigieg’s bullshit exceptionalism – albeit spoken with Hollywood aplomb – persuades actual voters with actual ballot papers to commit their future (and the country) to such an unproven, unknown big business apologist?


p.s. this isn’t a problem solely in the United States. Boris Johnson in the UK played up his role as a fantasy buffoon, bumbling but likeable, fascism with a good speaking voice. He beat the sincere, long-suffering opposition parties with ease and the rump of his voter base came from the very demographics his platform has – for decades – sought to exploit. Bizarre.

Standard
contrarian, politics, society

UK BIG CAPITAL BREXIT AND THE LAST CHANCE SALOON

Boris Johnson and his Brexiteer organ grinders have two goals: Exit Day and a Parliamentary majority. They go hand in hand. Winning a majority in the House of Commons will hand the new government absolute control over when and how Exit Day happens. It is only the hung parliament and Conservative Party in-fighting that’s prevented Exit Day from happening already. If Boris Johnson wins the election on December 12th, any expectation of a moderate, progressive resolution to Brexit and the UK’s future becomes, overnight, a busted flush.

EXIT DAY is enshrined in British and European law as the Brexit rubicon. It is a specific day, whatever the eventual date. On EXIT DAY everything changes. Brexit happens. Future agreements, borders, customs, withdrawal legislation details, political promises: whatever these may or may not become, EXIT DAY stands as a distinct, legally unambiguous end-point.

On EXIT DAY all legal regulation of Parliamentary authoritarian excess ends. Any government with a safe majority in the House of Commons will have free-reign to do as it pleases. Be assured, an ambitious servant of the big capital like Boris Johnson will use this mandate to the fullest possible extent. He’ll govern with the twin aims of bolstering his position (future elections included) and forcing through an extreme legislative agenda. Deregulation will begin immediately, sweeping away pesky safety standards and social protections, removing all pretence of regulatory restrictions on what can and can’t be sliced up for capital exploitation.

There objective will be to change the British regulatory infrastructure. This will result in no safety net, no fundamental human rights, no independent centres of legal authority capable of limiting extreme partisan policy. Everything is up for grabs: public finances, the NHS, pension funds, national debt, utilities, infrastructure, schools, colleges, media, police, prisons, justice and the courts. The United Kingdom will become a de facto commodity, a smorgasbord of multi-trillion dollar opportunities for capital exploitation.

Everyone below the line of financial independence will become cannon fodder; not only those at the bottom – the zero hours contracts, the pensioners, the legally ambiguous migrant poor – but the traditional ‘working class’ labour force, the industrious ‘lower middle class’ and up into the liberal ‘professional’ middle classes. All those demographics whose day to day life is tied to the UK by reason of money, property, family, roots, hope and fortitude, will face a future at the mercy of a rapacious, deregulated authority outside their control.

Government, in thrall to the crony capitalist cabal, is a profit-first policy maker. The electoral system in the United Kingdom invests its executive with dangerous but – in effect – direct and unfettered legislative power. Britain is a populous high-GDP country with a fairly affluent, passive citizenry. Bank bailout and austerity have shown the entrenched big capital interests how easily the ‘people’ can be worked, taxed and abused.

There was a short period of anxiety, in the immediate aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis but no consequences were visited on those behind it. Billions were handed over from the government treasuries and, ultimately, all the costs were borne entirely by the people.

If anything the bail outs were a profitable exchange for the investors as the public footed the bill. Small wonder the crony capitalist class quickly regained its self-confidence. Austerity can fade away now; not because the government has balanced its finances but because big capital has a far bigger opportunity in the crosshairs: the institutional bleeding of tens of millions of helpless British cash cows with nowhere to go and – perhaps soon – nowhere left to hide.

All the government needs to do, to set in motion the big capital coda, is carry out a comprehensive deregulation. The first and most important part of this plan is to cut the United Kingdom off from the European Union. This happens on EXIT DAY and it can’t be walked back.

In the blink of an eye, this lot gets repealed: European Communities Act 1972, European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002, European Parliament (Representation) Act 2003, European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, European Union Act 2011, European Union (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Act 2012, European Union (Approvals) Act 2013, European Union (Approvals) Act 2014, Serious Crime Act 2015, sections 82 and 88(5)(c), European Union (Finance) Act 2015, European Union (Approvals) Act 2015… and all the subordinate and associated legislation.

And changes: Finance Act 1973, Interpretation Act 1978, European Economic Area Act 1993, Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, Human Rights Act 1998, Scotland Act 1998, Northern Ireland Act 1998, Government of Wales Act 2006, Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015.

Make no mistake, Britain (and its component nations) won’t collapse after EXIT DAY, but the government will be – in effect – a dictatorship. It won’t need to push its authority into the public sphere immediately, though it will be tempted to flex its muscles, to underline what unopposed is going to mean for the country. This will be a way to make sure the media spin is properly in line with directives from above. What’s more, institutions built up over decades using tax-revenues from generations of hard-working men and women, like the National Health Service, are vast propositions ripe for organised government sanctioned plunder. Carving up one of the world’s biggest economies will take years. There’s no modern precedent.

It’s the EXIT DAY that enables unregulated government by an elected totalitarian executive able to make law over 65 million citizens without fear of contravening supranational human rights. EXIT DAY leaves government free to legislate away protections of all kind, safe from EU oversight. EXIT DAY raises the drawbridge between the United Kingdom and Europe. EXIT DAY is the breach in the wall separating the unregulated forces of hungry capital from the public sphere (civic goods and services, private citizen rights) millions rely on for their health and daily quality of life.

The UK will never recover what’ll start bleeding away in earnest once EXIT DAY happens. That will be the day its membership of the European Union terminates, de facto de jure de profundis. Forty five years of agreement, compromise, mutual benefit and legal protection become repealed, instantly. It beggars belief there are some in the English working class planning a celebration their loss of freedom!

Whichever way a democracy votes, however much one may cry out against being guided by misguided, manipulated self-interest, it’s nonetheless making a choice. That choice may have been conditioned by complicit media, ramping up prejudice and vanity to scapegoat anyone presuming to warn the public, but it’d be a cop out not to face the reality. No gun, no police baton, no fear of authoritarian violence will be forcing the general public to place their vote for a servant of the vested interests on December 12th. Britain’s electorate is free; and this includes being free to vote for an act of unparalleled self-harm.

If the British electorate vote the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson into power, it’ll be hard to argue against the new Tory orthodoxy. After all, the UK has been through a decade of austerity under this self-same party. It’s endured years of Brexit shenanigans. We’ve witnessed firsthand an unapologetic executive disdain for the legislature. The Supreme Court has had to censure the unrepentant government for illegal abuses of the constitution. There is near-universal certainty Brexit will cause economic hardship.

Tory victory can only come if the people most hurt by austerity, Brexit and broken public services choose somehow to forget their lived reality and vote once again for the political class responsible for their plight.

What’s more, Britain has a long history of Conservative governments – most far less extreme than Boris Johnson and his crony capitalist cabal – taking a wrecking ball to the working-class communities across the country. Margaret Thatcher’s war against the mineworkers is just one of many cases in point.

Conservatives have always advocated the interests of corporate business over public services. Their policies, even before Brexit, came from a vision parsed exclusively by a cartel of elite historical wealth in alliance with new money actors essential for keeping the deeply entrenched but segregated establishment de rigeur with the voting cannon fodder. This cosmopolitan money class has always disdained the lower orders as authors of their own self-sabotaging destiny. Conservatism in the United Kingdom has mirrored these beliefs for a century.

Big capital ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality cherry picks the upwardly mobile exceptions from the mass of lumpen proletariat, allowing the ‘best’ to class migrate, leaving the ‘rest’ to fester in their unspeakably awful world. One might almost share their belief that the lower classes were born to live degraded lives, given their widespread acceptance of their lot.

What better demonstration of this cynical Darwinian principle than millions of freeborn untermensch turkeys voting for Christmas in the form of successive Tory governments? Who’s to say it isn’t “right” for the country, if that’s the outcome December 2019? Hardcore Conservatives will explain a victory as the self-evident proof of the ways real people function in the real world What’s certainly self-evident at this point is it’s a real world the right-wing disaster capitalists have a vested interest in making a fait accompli.

EXIT DAY will be the end of the Act one way or another. Parliamentary majority will define what comes after. The crony capitalist cabal in control of government or purity socialists trying to fight the tide of greed and austerity by sheer main force of their blundering but conceited altruism? The former is worse, by far. The latter is no blueprint for long-term success and the UK has a history of rejecting parties running on unapologetic left-wing ideology. Whatever happens, it won’t be pretty.

Standard
contrarian, politics, questions, society

NEW RULES, NEW STAKES, OLD ELECTORATE

The end of the decade is fast approaching. On the 12st of December 2019, the United Kingdom goes to the polls in the most divisive, fucked up election in living memory. Whether the voters know it or not, the stakes are enormous. Eleven months later the United States Presidential election will play with similarly high stakes. The two great English-speaking democracies are facing an unparalleled existential threat.

On one side, the democratic ideal, fact and accountability, public service as a standard that transcends political team games. This might be public service as social democracy provisions, national utilities and wealth redistribution but equally it could be serving the public best by regulating the level playing field for competitive winners-and-losers free market capitalism. Between those poles is politics and that’s fine.

But on the other hand, the dealer’s side, this British election and elections elsewhere is entrusting the future of a free and democratic society to the vicissitudes of an stupefied electorate that’s been degraded by austerity, distracted by Brexit and targeted relentlessly by a media who’s purpose is to amplify the agenda of freewheeling big capital.

Government always exists in tension with sovereign speculative wealth but in the UK, the Conservatives – traditionally party of business and self-interest – has been taken over directly by big capital completely. This takeover is a game changer. The same has happened in the United States and it has created an unseen but fundamental schism at the heart of government. It means at least one of the main parties likely to be voted into executive power is no longer looking to govern for the sake of the best possible future for the country. In the United Kingdom, less resilient than the United States, executive power equals authoritarian power and the potential for abuse is unregulated even by checks and balances.

Big capital actors don’t care about what’s in the national interest. Why should they? That’s not the game they’re playing. They’re not concerned with the traditional political arguments about more or less socialism, bigger or smaller budgets for public services versus spending on stimulating business as the engine of economic growth. Big capital is about profit and monopoly. These speculators are global in outlook, because national borders are a ringfence for the unimportant distinctions between mythologies of populations; idiosyncrasies to be exploited, nothing more. It’s your problem, if you’re an advocate for democracy, to deal with the collateral damage of big capital’s hunt for profit running through the domain of public interest. The masses exist to work, pay tax, consume and – when necessary – take the hit when the boom bust economics dip into the red.

Big capital owns most of the European and American media. Big capital interests largely control the message (through media and advertising and consumer services). Big capital is profit-driven. Its interest in people goes only so far as how best to use their labour and exploit their consumption. This makes the training of a stable culture of mass-consumer acquiescence a collateral requirement of the profit chase. Stability and consumption are a tricky proposition, balancing well-defined homogeneous demographics at the same time as keeping the population atomised against socialist ideas.

Collective power versus entrenched power. The mainstream must be regulated, subordinated to the dictates of the consumer here and now, or else profit suffers. Profit can’t be allowed to suffer so big capital dominated government becomes, inevitably, an organ of control, not liberation. By default it’s an ideology of mythology over history, reaction over reflection, short-term instincts encouraged to eclipse long-term interests.

The Conservatives in the UK, just like the Republicans in the USA, have been taken over by the big capital ideology. Emboldened by the capitulation of the population to austerity and the government to underwriting consequences of bad investment (diverting tax income and future debt into the coffers of the speculators), big capital is pushing to seal the deal.

In a sense the UK election – and the American 2020 vote – are a line in the sand. Will big capital succeed in placing its well-paid employees in government, taking control of the reigns of power to deregulate and deck stack its entrenched power? Or will the public get wise to this?

Have enough regular voters been affected by the degrading of their own lives so they realise the real enemy of their long-term quality of life? Or has the media and the stubborn consumer conservatism of the electorate built up a coda of mass introversion where the public opt for a surrender to populist fantasy?

In short, has the ever-practical, patient big capital cabal trained enough turkeys to not only refuse the hands that feed but instead, far worse, on December 12th 2019 and November 8th 2020, vote in favour of Christmas?

Standard