Lest We Forget, Clinton Wanted to Privatize Social Security

The collapse of the liberal media into a miasma of identity politics and guilt trips is fascinating to watch. After having been laid for a killer trip for how my support for Jill Stein is going to bring about the return of back-alley abortion, I think I have a bit of a right to just point out yet again that Hillary Clinton, if elected, wanted to put my parents in the poorhouse by privatizing their Social Security.

The first place to look for confirmation of this was the Podesta email cache. On October 10, Wikileaks released the infamous Wall Street speeches Clinton made behind closed doors, which said:

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this may be borne more out of hope than experience in the last few years. But Simpson-Bowles — and I know you heard from Erskine earlier today — put forth the right framework. Namely, we have to restrain spending, we have to have adequate revenues, and we have to incentivize growth. It’s a three-part formula. The specifics can be negotiated depending upon whether we’re acting in good faith or not. And what Senator Simpson and Erskine did was to bring Republicans and Democrats alike to the table, and you had the full range of ideological views from I think Tom Coburn to Dick Durbin. And they reached an agreement. But what is very hard to do is to then take that agreement if you don’t believe that you’re going to be able to move the other side. And where we are now is in this gridlocked dysfunction. So you’ve got Democrats saying that, you know, you have to have more revenues; that’s the sine qua non of any kind of agreement. You have Republicans saying no, no, no on revenues; you have to cut much more deeply into spending. Well, looks what’s happened. We are slowly returning to growth. It’s not as much or as fast as many of us would like to see, but, you know, we’re certainly better off than our European friends, and we’re beginning to, I believe, kind of come out of the long aftermath of the ’08 crisis. [Clinton Speech For Morgan Stanley, 4/18/13]

Simpson-Bowles, for those of you who forgot, was part of a long line of Democratic moves over the past 8 years that would lead the way for privatizing the fund. I previously documented this issue for Counterpunch on September 30 and stand by my reporting despite claims from the pwogs that this is a conspiracy theory.

Second of course is Robin Blackburn’s classic essay How Monica Lewinsky Saved Social Security, which retrieved from the Clinton archive primary documents from the beginning of the effort dating back to 1998. Following his destruction of Welfare, Bubba had decided to set his sights on retirement “entitlements” with the aid of his Robert Rubin-Larry Summers fiscal brain trust. Of course, when the intern with that magic blue dress became a national punchline, he was forced to pivot to the left to shore up his anti-privatization base as the GOP hounds began to circle for the kill. Nevertheless, the effort has been simmering on the back burner for the past two decades and remains tenable. Obama has put in place as custodian of the Social Security trust fund Charles P. Blahous III, who supported privatizing under George W. Bush, and manipulated the chained Consumer Price Index, used to generate yearly coast of living adjustments, so to sow enough dissent and cause people to think the system no longer works. The blade of the guillotine only needs be released at this point, all that is needed has been prepared.

Right now the media pundits who created this whole mess in the first place are spewing metric tons of nonsense about the Democrats coming to save us all from the Donald. This has an air of credibility due to the quite obvious fact that his Rogues Gallery of staff and cabinet posts, neocons and neo-Confederates to quote Jeffrey St. Clair, is obviously awful. But this whole discourse is missing a crucial class analysis and so has all the merit of a spitball launched at the lunchroom bully. Only with a class analysis that articulates the truth about Democratic Social Security policy do we see the real discourse emerge.

To further cement this point, I would suggest a brief exercise that begins with two quotes.

The longest-lived effort to construct socialism was the USSR, but in this case we find the deployment of one or both biblical narratives – a ‘betrayal’ or a ‘Fall’ narrative – to account for its ‘failure’. For many, Stalin embodies the manifestation of that betrayal. Was he not, after all, a paranoid and omniscient dictator, ruling by a bloodthirsty and capricious will? Caricatures aside, once one opts for a narrative of the ‘Fall’, one is playing a theological game. By ‘Fall’ narrative I mean a narrative that is structured in terms of a fall from grace, analogous to the story in Genesis 2–3, in which Eve and then Adam eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree (of the knowledge of good and evil) and are thereby banished by God from paradise. -Roland Boer

One of the most devious traps which lurk for Marxist theorists is the search for the moment of the Fall, when things took the wrong turn in the history of Marxism: was it already the late Engels with his more positivist-evolutionary understanding of historical materialism? Was it the revisionism AND the orthodoxy of the Second International? Was it Lenin? Or was it Marx himself in his late work, after he abandoned his youthful humanism (as some “humanist Marxists” claimed decades ago)? This entire topic has to be rejected: there is no opposition here, the Fall is to be inscribed into the very origins. (To put it even more pointedly, such a search for the intruder who infected the original model and set in motion its degeneration cannot but reproduce the logic of anti-Semitism.) -Slavoj Zizek

I would argue the neoliberals are not, despite pwog pleas to the contrary, the aberration within the Democratic edifice, they are in fact the norm. I would like to try to hammer this home using a point that is the antithesis of the one made by Boer and Zizek by explaining what happened to American liberalism in the 1930s.

The myth that has gone on for nearly a century is that Franklin Roosevelt was the grandfatherly Keynesian who saved the economy and American capitalism by creating the welfare state. Dr. Vijay Prashad touched on a fact, however, that repudiated this earlier this year when he wrote

“Roosevelt’s main [1933 campaign] plank was to shrink the government and expand U.S. trade with the world. These were policy positions much favored by the elite. During the election, there was little sign that Roosevelt would expand the U.S. government and use state spending to enhance economic activity.”

Justin Raimondo at AntiWar.com also nears this point when he discusses his beloved Old Right, the collection of both isolationist Democrats and Republicans who hated the New Deal. While it is true that his Old Right did have a bit of a soft-gloves approach to European fascism, it is clear that he is not referring to the Klan, who were the actual right wingers in America, as much as anti-Keynesian moderates.

What I am trying to articulate here is that, if there is any tradition that deserves a Fall narrative, it is American liberalism. Until the election of FDR, the Democrats were a liberal party in accordance with the tenets of that philosophy. But, in the midst of a near-revolutionary moment that we call the Great Depression and Second World War, Roosevelt changed its very character to that of a European labor one, staving off Communists, Socialists, Trotskyists, and Musteites who were on the verge of expropriating the expropriators. Roosevelt told the financial elites at that point refusal to allow the creation of the welfare state was at their peril.

In this sense, the Fall narrative should be the four decades of economic development seen in America, spanning the election of Roosevelt to the fall of Nixon, who was ousted just as much by a right wing base enraged by his fiscal policies as by the Watergate break-in. The welfare state itself was the heresy of the capitalist parties that would otherwise have been happy to allow further suffering of the population just as long as they were ensconced in comfort. In this sense the Clintons are, true to their Southern roots, like an old-time revivalist tent show, inclined to all sorts of chicanery and smoke-and-mirror operations to hide from the congregation how they are robbing the people in the pews.

Mark Blyth, the Eastman Professor of Political Economy at Brown University, recently wrote in a column titled Global Trumpism for Foreign Affairs of how the welfare state was unsustainable:

…[O]nce you target and sustain full employment over time, it basically becomes costless for labor to move from job to job. Wages in such a world will have to continually rise to hold onto labor, and the only way business can accommodate that is to push up prices. This mechanism, cost-push inflation, where wages and prices chase each other up, emerged in the 1970s and coincided with the end of the Bretton Woods regime and the subsequent oil shocks to produce high inflation in the rich countries of the West in the 1970s. In short, the system undermined itself…

This is the nature of any heresy in the theological sense, they contain a certain element that makes them  prone to self-destruction. In America, we have just witnessed the collapse of a multi-decade Protestant one, the Prosperity Gospel, which was embraced for decades by Evangelical Christians. These same Evangelicals just voted in droves for a Chief Executive who embodies every anathema within that theological matrix, a crass, crude, adulterous philandering scum bag landlord from the godless, Jew-infested Big Apple.

The reason for this collapse is related directly to the nature of liberalism as a philosophy of the capitalist revolution that smashed the feudal system. It is a philosophy that is premised on the notion of identity, saying that all are equal before the law, and it does not have within its logic the dimension of class that Marx later added through the use of the Hegelian dialectic. The half-hearted efforts of the presidents from 1933-1975 to solve this conundrum created a welfare state that infamously depended on both imperialism and the perpetuation of an apartheid order ostracizing people of color from the bounty. Clinton’s corporatist policies, including but not limited to privatizing Social Security, were classical liberal positions, just as Trump’s are. The Libertarian Party at least is honest about these sorts of things as the true believers in liberalism.

The rectification of this heresy within liberalism requires an embrace of a uniquely eco-communist vision of our future politics. The notion of eco-socialism is frankly lacking because of the nature of the crisis at hand. When Lenin renamed the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Bolshevik) the Communist Party, that was an act reflecting how radically he wished to push things to the left in the face of a global cataclysm that continues to impact our daily lives a century later. The European Socialist movement, gathered around the Second International, had collapsed in the face of this cataclysm, the First World War, and had in fact enabled a Trump-like brand of vicious racism by espousing a Clintonite style of imperialism. By repudiating Socialism in the name of Communism, he was directly opposing this latter brand, a polite colonialism composed of gentlemen technocrats and efficient gendarmes.

In the present circumstances, we must not only oppose the privatizing of Social Security but promote its expansion. Social Security itself was a first enacted by the state socialist program of Bismarck, who effectively coopted the German Socialist program to maintain a worker class base and stave off a revolt for a generation. In the face of the climate crisis, we cannot allow for similar coopting.

We should further begin to develop a critique of neoliberal imperialism that recognizes the “disaster capitalism” discussed by Naomi Klein in her The Shock Doctrine as a weapon of imperialism, that American government apathy in the face of climate change is in fact a barely-hidden glee at the prospect of profits for the imperial state. The anti-colonial struggle being waged at places like Standing Rock are therefore nothing more than auguries of a wider eco-communist struggle to come as the crisis accelerates. The question of whether one should embrace accelerationism in this sense is simply moot because it is actually a fact that the capitalist system is the party who selected this perspective.

Eco-communism is the only solution to what we face. Blyth gave a succinct and clear diagnosis of what is on the horizon when he closed his recent essay by writing “The era of neoliberalism is over. The era of neonationalism has just begun.”

Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

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