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

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail