Trump, Comey and 2018

The firing of Director Comey and the subsequent shit storm that has followed has been a huge PR blunder born of the authoritarian self-assurance that only a wealthy, disconnected CEO can possess. What’s even worse, depending on your political leanings, is that this debacle seems poised to make Congress impotent in pushing a Republican legislative agenda before the 2018 midterms.

On the Senate side of things, it would be inconsequential even if the Democrats managed to win the 7 Republican seats up for reelection. However, the House seems to be a place where they could in theory make a comeback. Doing so would probably result in a legislative gridlock, something Congress is famous for, that would create yet another hurtle for the Trump Administration.

If I had to advise a Republican facing an uncertain reelection bid, I would tell them to just stay silent about the Russia investigation. It doesn’t look like it is going to be resolved anytime soon and the opinions surrounding it are too volatile to keep from alienating part of their constituency. Unfortunately, Republican’s don’t have any big legislative wins to run on either. The first incarnation of Trumpcare was quickly killed by the libertarian Freedom Caucus while the second draft, although it has already passed the House, faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Democrats need to push their advantage. It’s not going to be enough in 2018 or even in 2020 to just point a finger at the White House and screech about every scandal and alternative fact. They need to begin discussing with the public an alternative agenda that addresses the concerns of working class Americans and is more palatable than Clinton 2016. Carly Fiorina’s–yes, I know she’s a Republican–demon sheep ad was undoubtedly effective, political discourse can’t just center around how bad the other guy is. Hopefully last year’s defeat proved that to the Democratic establishment.

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RAD Analysis: Reduce Democracy (2 of 11)

Chomsky lays out the reduction of democracy as an ongoing battle between the elite and the populace over property rights. This age old conflict seems to have two obvious solutions, create institutions that reduce democracy or create institutions that promote equality.

Founding Father and Classical Liberal, James Madison, argued that protecting an individual’s right to private property was critical to American democracy. This is why the original draft of the Constitution did not provide for the direct election of senators; this change would not come until 1913 with the passing of the 17th Amendment. Instead, the ranks of the Senate were filled by elections from within state legislatures. This was an attempt to strike a balance between the interests of the elite and the populace.

On the other end of the spectrum is Aristotle. Like the Classical Liberals of the 17th and 18th centuries, he believed that inequality could create a crisis for democracy in which the populace would seek to take and redistribute property held by the elites. However, Aristotle’s solution was to reduce inequality through market regulations. In order to accomplish Aristotle’s aim, states would have to some extent fix prices and wages thus creating a more equal distribution.  Continue reading “RAD Analysis: Reduce Democracy (2 of 11)”

An Analysis of ‘Requiem for the American Dream’ (1 of 11)

Like many other people my age, I have joined the ranks of Netflix and Hulu users forsaking traditional cable. I can honestly say I don’t particularly miss it. Netflix has plenty enough series and documentaries to keep me entertained. One documentary I come back to on a semi-regular basis is Requiem for the American Dream. This is an hour long interview with the renowned economist Noam Chomsky about the current economic system and its relationship to inequality and its effect on democracy.

RAD is organized around ten points that Chomsky calls ‘Ten Principles of the Concentration of Wealth and Power.’ In the following posts I will analyze each point outlined in RAD. I highly suggest that anyone interested in sociology, economics or politics gives this documentary a watch. It’s well worth the time.  rad

Running the Government Like a Business

The main premise of this neoliberal argument is that businesses are somehow more efficient than the government. However, efficiency in the private sector is not the same as efficiency in the public sector.

In the private sector efficiency can be measured in terms of profit. A good business is one that finds ways to maximize profit and minimize expenditures. This involves strategies like cutting corners, pursuing new markets, ceasing costly ventures, etc.

On the other hand, a government’s efficiency cannot be measured in terms of profit. Attempting to do this would force politicians to cut programs that generate no direct revenue like libraries, museums, highways, public schools and various other services we currently enjoy. Yes, these things have social value, but the bottom line is they do not contribute monetarily to the state and are therefore a burden. So what can be used as a standard of government efficiency?

The obvious answer here is how equally disbursed and well maintained public institutions and programs are. Let’s say SNAP, another program that generates no direct revenue, only manages to cover a third of citizens experiencing food insecurity. We would  consider SNAP inefficient and demand reform to fix it. This reform would not center around finding a way to cut expenditures to the program; the conversation would be about appropriating sufficient funds or creating a process that would accurately target the other two-thirds of starving citizens.

Thoughts on Citizenship

The immigration debate has watered down the public’s perception of what it means to be a citizen by framing it as a state brought on by birth or certification by the government. The gravity of the term is lost amongst the endless rhetoric. To put it simply, a citizen is a member of a nation that shares in certain rights, privileges and duties. ‘Duties’ seems to be the word lost on modern citizens.

Civic duties are necessary to the health of the nation. Every American male at the age of 18 is required to register for the draft. If the United States were to find itself in a circumstance where the common welfare requires the mobilization of our entire military might, then it is the duty of everyone registered to serve. I can’t say that the prospect of killing or being killed is particularly thrilling, but it is my duty to do so if necessary.

Another form of duty and one we are oftentimes told to hate by neoliberals is taxation. Taxes provide the lifeblood of the state and are used to support services like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, infrastructure, public education, libraries, post offices etc. Every material benefit we enjoy as Americans is paid for by tax dollars. This is why I’ve always thought it was strange that my peers treat tax day as a day of mourning. Why wouldn’t someone want to help the poorest and neediest of their nation?

A final civic duty to consider is the one most often forgotten about largely because it requires the individual to become active and that is voting. Political participation is vital to a properly functioning democracy. That feeling that the government is some kind of foreign entity is the result of decades of political apathy. The government in liberal democracies is a reflection of the most politically active interests in a nation.

Our feeling that the government is disinterested and doesn’t listen to the people should not result in more apathy. Withholding your vote is voting for more of the same.

 

Race, Semantics and Policing

I am just going to start this one off saying that the police really should not be shooting anyone unless it is absolutely necessary. For instance if a student runs his car into a crowd of his peers then exits wielding a knife, a cop would be justified in using lethal force. I cite the Ohio State attack because SJWs at the university feel a need to protest this officer’s decision to end the threat before anyone else was hurt.

You could literally take this instance and use it as a utilitarian question. 1 knife wielding, car ramming attacker or the student body? Which do you choose?

Anyways, ‘systemic’ doesn’t just imply, it means that there is an institutional backing for a certain practice. Therefore, ‘systemic racism’ is racist acts carried out as a matter of policy rather than individual biases.

I will never make the claim that all police are perfect beings without a single ounce of prejudice. Of course there are some racist police. They are humans not robots; it’s only natural that they have their own inclinations which may or may not align with those of society.

That being said, the last I checked there are no policies directing police to target racial minorities. If some evidence comes out to the contrary, I will gladly retract that statement but to my knowledge there is none.

Arguing about systemic racism in policing is a hard one to make largely because of the definition of ‘systemic’ and the lack of substantiations. However, if there are still those SJWs hellbent on using the fun new word, they should direct it towards the legal system the United States government and big business has orchestrated over the past 40 years.

There it might be accurate to state something like ‘the current legal system has a systemic bias towards harsher punishments for less wealthy citizens.’ The legal system is a machine. It only cares about one color and that is green.

 

The Folly of Protesting for the Sake of Protesting

College campuses around the nation seem to be seething over with despair and frustration. Nearly everywhere student organizations are banding together to display their angst for the world to see.

My own peers hosted a protest just about two weeks ago. One of the organizers and speakers asked if I would show my support. My first question was ‘What exactly is this protest against?’ His response…’Love Trump’s hate.’ This quickly solicited a whole host of follow up questions and subtle critiques.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I am concerned with the social and political ramifications of Trump’s ideology, but these protests that are seemingly against nothing need to stop. The fact of the matter is, as unfortunate as we may find it, Trump is going to take office come January. We should actually all be wishing him good health and what not because Pence far more reminiscent of Emperor Palpatine than our orange commander-in-chief, but I digress.

One of my favorite academic writers, Guy Standing, has a wonderful quote in his paper The Precariat and Class Struggle in which he describes the emergence of a new social class, the precariat, that I fear many of us will find ourselves a part of.

“The flames of struggle quickly expire in futile days of protest if all the struggle is about is being against what is happening.”

If a protest does not have a clear list of concerns and demands then it is going to fail. Movements cannot be sustained by vague mission statements not to mention the kind of perception generated in the public when confronted with protests of this nature.

I am not derailing protesting in general. It is our right and sometimes even our duty to so. What I am asking is that we only protest when our goal is clear. My fear is that by the time Millennials and Precarians mature and develop plans to address our real, growing concerns, the public will have already written us off. Protesting without a goal this early in the game is a disservice to our greater, formulating cause.