A recent article in Buzzfeed, The Left Looks For Another Eric Holder, describes the issues important to nominally progressive organizations. Chris Geidner and Evan McMorris-Santoro interviewed a number of groups on their wish list for Eric Holder’s replacement as Attorney-General. The groups include the ACLU, the Center for American Progress, the NAACP, the American Constitution Society, and groups working for LGBT rights and minimum sentencing reform, and against restrictive voting laws. They all agreed that Holder is on their side on major issues, with the exception of National Security, espionage and internal spying.
What’s missing from that list is anything to do with economic issues. The Attorney General is responsible for prosecution of economic crimes and antitrust laws, and Holder made no effort whatsoever to enforce either. Not a single “progressive” organization mentioned these issues. There are no progressive organizations that deal with these issues available to be interviewed. That is symptomatic of the failure of the left to address economic issues in an organized way. The only issues of concern to the institutional left are the traditional democratic issues. They all accept the neoliberal credo as their own, and are totally unwilling to address even minor changes to the economic structure. Even the massive upheaval of the economic order exposed by the Great Crash weren’t enough to shake the faith of left institutions in the US version of capitalism.
As proof, consider this. Earlier this year, Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, was a media sensation. It offers a detailed picture of wealth inequality in major countries around the world, and a tentative discussion of the dangers to democracy inherent in concentrated wealth. The book sold well, and may even have been read by operatives of both legacy parties, but it quickly disappeared in a cloud of murk. There is no point in describing the stupid response of the Republican party, which supports the 47% theory of Mitt Romney, and has no interest in the reality facing that 47% or the dying middle class. The Democrats saw the issue as “social mobility”, or as “income inequality”, and trotted out their sodden and meaningless programs for change, except, of course, for redressing the imbalance which has brought organized labor to its current low ebb. There is no organized way for Piketty’s data to penetrate the fog of institutional stupidity about economics.
This is not to denigrate the excellent work done on some issues by progressives, including those working for an increase in the minimum wage, like the SEIU, and those working on health care, like National Nurses United and Physicians for a National Health Program. I am especially impressed with the work done by the FACT Coalition which is working effectively towards tax reform:
The policy changes we seek include:
- Requiring country-by-country reporting by multi-national corporations of the sales made, profits earned and taxes paid in every jurisdiction where an entity operates;
- Eliminating loopholes in our tax system that incentivize corporations to shift profits and jobs offshore, to make sure that the corporations that benefit from all of the resources, protections and markets in the United States pay their fair share of taxes;
- Strengthening, standardizing and enforcing anti-money laundering laws; and
- Requiring ownership information of all business entities, trusts, foundations and charities – information that indicates who actually controls these entities – be made available to law enforcement and the public.
The organizations that support FACT are a diverse group, ranging from Citizens for Tax Justice to Global Witness. Their efforts directly confront some of the worst excesses of US capitalism, and international webs of support for corruption. It is vital work. And even so, it is an effort to tweak the system to serve a broader purpose, not an all-out attack at the roots of a system designed to serve the rich at the expense of everyone else and of the planet itself.
The fact is that progressives of all stripes have deliberately chosen to work inside the framework of US capitalism. They are only willing to put forward baby steps towards reform. There is no coherent defense against the efforts of the filthy rich to impose their will on every government and non-government organization in support of their drive to protect their existing wealth, and open the gates to exploitation of their wealth to create more wealth. For a particularly ugly demonstration, take a look at this discussion and the links it contains by the PBS ombudsman explaining the relationship between David Koch and the Boston and New York PBS channels. Nothing to see here, folks; David Koch is just fine with PBS. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that NPR has now dismantled its environmental desk.
There are plenty of individuals doing excellent work on economic issues. David Dayen is an expert on all facets of the housing disaster created by Wall Street and their pig mortgage servicing subsidiaries and colleagues. Yves Smith and her writers provide excellent coverage of the greed and corruption on Wall Street. But when it came time to talk to the White House and the media about economic issues, there was not a single Organization that thought it was important to talk about the utter failure of Eric Holder and his worthless staff to lock up a single Wall Streeter for the crimes that led to the Great Crash, and to demand that this be a priority in the last two years of the Obama Administration.
We are left with just a few voices lost in the internets, with no organized power center, and therefore no constituency for massive change. That’s the way the neoliberals in charge of both parties want it, and that’s the way it is.
I intend to keep writing about these crucial issues. Please help keep us running. Now, during our fund drive, is a great time to support pointed reporting on the structure of the economy and the theories that support it. If you can, do as I do, and support this site.
Thanks, Ed Walker