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

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail