FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Herman Cain, American Dreamer

by MARK T. HARRIS

As a relative unknown seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Herman Cain’s recent success in the polls has taken the field by surprise.

It shouldn’t. Since entering the primary race, Cain had an advantage over other Republicans in that he just hadn’t had the time in the spotlight necessary to offend too many people too much.

Obviously, he’s been working on that. Cain’s dismissal of the Occupy Wall Street protests, telling everyone who is not rich or employed they’ve only got themselves to blame, says much not only about the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, but also the motivational industry he inhabits as a speaker, writer, and radio host.

The latter is the world of corporate workshops and self-improvement programs where business speakers and self-help coaches tout such valuable skills as the secrets to mental toughness, the art of closing the deal, how to turn lemons into lemonade, the secrets of the super achievers (there are always lots of secrets), and how to manifest your greatest destiny and achieve outrageous success.

In other words, it’s a world where banalities are packaged as super-hyped-up gems of insight and genius. Most of this comes down to having goals and thinking about them. Also, believing in yourself is good. In this spirit, in 1995 Cain trademarked the phrase, The Hermanator Experience, to describe the wonderfully joyous happening of coming into contact with this pitchman’s various educational products.

Clearly, it’s difficult to take seriously any professed political thinker who indulges in such nonsense. Imagine if Noam Chomsky’s worldwide fame inspired him to start promoting his lectures as The Noamanator Experience. Obviously, Cain is hustling inspiration all the way to the bank. Now he has discovered what, in motivational industry vernacular, might be described as the world’s greatest self-promotion strategy, one in which you win even if you lose. It’s called running for president.

You, Yes, You! It’s All Your Fault!
Of course, Cain’s right. The strategy works. From a relative unknown, Cain is now a national name, thanks to his not-so-secret strategy of self-promotion. This is unlikely to translate down the road into an election victory, or even a party nomination, despite his current popularity in the polls, but with the name recognition will invariably come more books, more endorsements, more speaking engagements, and—most of all—more money.

Currently, Cain charges $25,000 for an inspirational speech in which he dispenses his life’s wisdom on making it in America. That’s a lot of money for an afternoon’s work. Then again it must take rare skill to leave the non-rich feeling pumped up after sharing with them the awkward news that their low status is all their fault.

Actually, when Cain says to blame yourself if you’re not rich or employed, he’s just personalizing his larger “free-market” views. Blame the unions. Blame the minimum wage. Blame Medicare. Blame corporate taxes. Blame government regulations. If it weren’t for this litany of evils, Cain declares, market economics in all its unrestrained glory would solve all problems.

In this sense, Cain’s 9-9-9 economic plan is just more of the same. Here blame-the-victim politics gets translated into higher taxes for those who can least afford them. According to the Tax Policy Center, Cain’s proposal promises to provide the top 0.1% (those who earn more than $2.7 million) an average annual tax cut of nearly $1.4 million. That’s an increase of nearly 27 percent in after-tax income. But for middle-incomes families (those earning $64,000 to $110,000), the story’s not so upbeat. They can expect their taxes to rise by nearly five percent.

Cain’s economic sloganeering is designed to set him apart from other Republicans, without actually setting him apart from other Republicans. At least the gimmicky 9-9-9 plan makes it easy for Republicans to get their economic vision thing straight. Since Cain proposes a nine percent tax on personal income, it’s an easy leap to remember he also proposes a nine percent business tax! And, a nine percent federal sales tax! This is economics packaged like a convenience, a Groupon Deal of the Week redeemable at your nearest primary caucus.

There is a skewed logic to Cain’s blame-yourself advice to the jobless and non-rich. In his world of super-charged success, where the sky’s the limit for any individual willing to take charge of their life, unemployment and poverty are in the end just a failure of willpower and positive thinking.

But why shouldn’t Cain think this way? He grew up in the South, poor and black, went to school, educated himself and ably pursued a business career. Does that mean his particular life story with its personal triumphs now translates into a blueprint for national economic and political policy? Cain’s Horatio Alger view of the world might impress some mid-level corporate sales team held captive in a Marriot Hotel conference room on a Tuesday afternoon, but it can hardly explain or solve the economy’s larger problems.

Formula for Workers’ Self-Management?

In his 2001 book, CEO of Self, Cain describes how companies do well “when every person in every job feels fully empowered to be the best leader they can be in their respective roles.” In business, miracles apparently happen, Cain declares, “when everyone in the business feels that they are truly the CEO of their job and understand what part they play in the overall mission and goals of the business….”

That almost sounds like a formula for workers’ self-management, but not quite. In fact, it will be a long, lonely journey to find anything in Cain’s business products about the road to prosperity coming through social solidarity, as represented in Occupy Wall Street or through building a stronger union movement.

In fact, Cain has always veered in the opposite direction, opposing unions as an infringement on business. Sadly, there will be no uplifting stories in any of Cain’s books about how he, the highly paid executive, bucked management to champion greater benefits and wages for the underdog employees of Burger King or Godfather’s Pizza. Instead Cain’s story includes how earlier this year he traveled to Wisconsin in a show of support for Gov. Walker’s attack on collective bargaining rights.

The Cain candidacy is another reason why Occupy Wall Street is happening. So many people have had enough of the hucksters and hustlers, the endless corporate lies and blame-the-victim politics that always seems to leave ordinary Americans at the short end of their bank accounts.

Cain is just one more of the privileged partisans of America Incorporated determined to steer the ship of state into the nearest iceberg. Indeed, while the nation awakens to a new era of activism and anger at America’s growing economic inequality, Republicans bicker with surreal detachment over who is the best champion of more tax cuts on wealth, more deregulation, more cuts in public expenditures, and more money to the world’s largest military.

Of course, personally Herman Cain, like Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman et al, has few worries over how it all turns out. As the crashing waves of unemployment and poverty wash higher and higher over the sinking ship of the American economy, these folks, insulated by wealth, can afford to quibble over who among them is the most obsequious servant of capital.

On that point at least they are all front-runners.

Mark T. Harris is a former Chicago-area writer who now lives in Portland, Oregon. He is a featured contributor to “The Flexible Writer,” fourth edition, by Susanna Rich (Allyn & Bacon/Longman, 2003). Website: www.Mark-T-Harris.com. Email: Mark@Mark-T-Harris.com.

Mark T. Harris is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. He grew up a few blocks from the site of the old Lindlahr Sanitarium frequented by Eugene Debs in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst. However, none of the teachers in the local schools ever spoke a word about Debs or the clinic. He does remember Carl Sandburg’s Elmhurst home, which was torn down in the 1960s to build a parking lot. Email: Harris@writersvoice.org

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump. It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Douglas Valentine
Who Killed MLK Jr?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
Vijay Prashad
After Aleppo: the State of Syria
John Wight
Russia Must be Destroyed: John McCain and the Case of the Dodgy Dossier
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail