Glory hallelujah! If the Lord’s “terrible swift sword” had descended from the heavens to witness the Democratic Party’s congressional delegation’s standing ovation in response to Donald Trump’s State of Union introduction of his despicably appointed Venezuelan presidential pretender Juan Guaidó, the Democrats would be dead in the water. But there is no God in American politics; the only certainty lies in a clear understanding that the election game is rigged from start to finish, that the only serious entrance fee to the current two year long, $8 billion spectacle is a war chest of hundreds of millions—even billions—of dollars, privileged access to the corporate media and a pledge in advance to abide by whichever Democrat or Republican emerges as the candidate. And what is true for the present election charade is magnified a thousand fold with regard to the corporate control of every aspect of the multi-trillion dollar U.S. economy, where every critical decision, every budget item, every penny, more or less, allocated in Trump’s present $4.7 trillion budget proposal is determined in advance by a slew of corporate technocrats in the pay of the billionaire elites who really run the country.
Bernie Sanders’ pledge of Democratic Party unity at the outset of his campaign, dramatically repeated to cheering supporters following his primary victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, informs us that Bernie’s “revolution” and “democratic socialism” notwithstanding, nothing will change should he beat the odds to advance as the Democrats’ candidate—or even if he emerges victorious in the November presidential elections. Capitalism will remain intact, unless and until the mass independent power of the working class is brought to bear to smash it—from its foundations to its superstructure.
The bi-partisan ovation for Juan Guaidó, the right-wing U.S.-chosen agent of Trump’s CIA-orchestrated coup in Venezuela, gave proof that the warmongering Democrats are indistinguishable from their Republican counterparts. Indeed, the Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives upped Trump’s proposed military budget by some $40 billion. Similarly, the Democrats’ failed Trump impeachment effort was based on the proposition that the Democrats favored arming the Ukrainian government that was brought into being by the U.S.-backed fascist coup of 2014. Of the thousand issues that could have been raised to discredit the monstrous racist, sexist, imperialist president, the Democrats raised none! Their calculations of gaining an electoral leg up dramatically backfired when post-impeachment polls showed Trump registering his highest approval ratings—49 percent against the Democrats’ 42 percent.
After voting throughout his congressional career for nearly every military budget before him, Sanders today claims that he might seek to trim that budget somewhere down the line. The U.S. currently maintains troops in 150 nations along with 1100 military bases. Its death squad Special Forces, according to a February New York Times report, operate in 90 nations – in every instance to guarantee U.S. “national security” interests by any means necessary. Trump’s new budget includes constructing state-of-the-art submarines capable of launching “tactical” nuclear weapons anywhere in the world. These are to be complemented by Trump’s plan to build untold numbers of “tactical” nuclear weapon, perhaps with the president’s own finger on the launch button. The last and only finger to launch such weapons belonged to the liberal Democrat Harry Truman whose doomsday decision in 1945 instantly obliterated 500,000 Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The construction of the bomb was authorized by the great corporate liberal of the time, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who died of natural causes several months earlier.
Trump’s touted economic gains
The economic achievements Trump claimed in his State of the Union, politely applauded by the Democrats, were lies pure and simple. His “lowest unemployment rates ever” were the same fabrications touted by the Democrats under the Obama administration.
• 83 percent of Trump’s claimed new jobs are low quality jobs in low wage sectors, that is, where pay is usually at the poverty level or lower.
• 37 percent of these, where 57 million people are “employed,” are in the “gig economy,” wherein hours are part time and uncertain from week to week, and wages are low.
• 40 percent of US wage workers between the ages of 26 and 32 do not know their work schedule a week in advance.
• Low wage workers are increasingly forced to work less than 30 hours per week to allow employers to escape paying various required benefits, such as health insurance.
• Trump’s overall unemployment figure of 3.5 percent excludes “discouraged workers” and other Bureau of Labor Statistics categories that disappear the unemployed and underemployed and include workers who appear on the books for just one-quarter of the year and are jobless thereafter. A more accurate figure indicates that the overall employment rate, the “labor force participation rate,” as it is called, was 63.4% in January 2020, up from 63.2% in December 2019.
That is, according to government figures, some 37 percent have no jobs!
All these figures generally replicate those of the Obama administration. The only economic miracles registered by both parties are the massive redistribution of the nation’s wealth from the vast majority to the one percent and the massive rise of the casino capitalist stock market.
The examples of NAFTA and the Tax Cuts
Trump’s $1.4 trillion December 2019 tax cut bill for the corporate elite was a bi-partisan affair as was his new NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), named USMCA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada). The latter simply rewrote various tariff provisions to further advantage the U.S. corporate elite. These two aspects of ruling class economic policies are instructive, if not decisive in understanding “how the system works.” Two thousand pages of the old NAFTA were revised last year to further benefit U.S. corporations over their Canadian and Mexican competitors. The remaining 7,000 pages were left intact. A single, seemingly innocuous change from the old NAFTA to the new USMCA was the insertion of a tiny provision, perhaps a few sentences, that requires Canadian supermarkets in British Columbia to allocate equal shelf space to California wines alongside displays of British Colombia-grown wines. Trivial? Perhaps. But California winemaking and distribution are multi-billion-dollar enterprises that operate worldwide. I can only imagine seeing one of their representatives handing over to Trump’s NAFTA re-negotiators their proposed written insertions to USMCA that guarantee a greater market share to California billionaires as against their lesser Canadian competitors. Multiply this minute example several-thousand-fold and a pristine picture emerges detailing how corporate America defends and advances its corporate interests at the expense of its rivals.
The same holds for the U.S. Tax Code and the U.S. Budget, both enormous tomes of virtually impenetrable figures known only to the literal handful of its overseers and perhaps a few thousand lobbyists and their experts who craft U.S. economic policy. The latter always alternate from the corporate world to high government posts. The generals and top executives of the military-industrial complex routinely exchange their corporate posts for government positions, where they advise the House Armed Services Committee on how to construct their annual trillion-dollar, ever-rising budget requests that exceed the combined military spending of the next ten nations.
Betsy Davos family tree
Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy Devos is a Republican known for her support for school choice, school voucher programs, and charter schools. These are the all code words for privatized-for-profit education and directly counterposed to what Trump sneeringly called “government schools” in his State of Union address. Devos is a former board member of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She has served as board chair of the Alliance for School Choice and the Acton Institute and headed the All Children Matter political action committee. All these are in the business of extracting billions of dollars from public education funds at the state and federal levels and transferring these billions to the pockets of the corporate elite.
DeVos’ family tree is instructive. She is married to Dick DeVos, the former CEO of the multi-level marketing company Amway and is the daughter-in-law of Amway’s billionaire co-founder, Richard DeVos. Her brother, Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is the founder of Blackwater USA, the private army corporation that contracted with the U.S. government to send paid mercenary armies to the Middle East and elsewhere to police the world for U.S. corporations.
The same interpenetration of the corporate and government worlds is the rule with regard to literally every decisive aspect of the U.S. economic and political-juridical system. They are inseparable, aside from an occasional dispute among them as to which elements of the ruling rich predominates in the exploitation of working people at any particular moment.
Trump’s new budget proposes to extend his trillions in tax breaks to the rich for another ten years. There will be zero opposition from the Democrats. There was zero opposition to his generous gifts last year to the same elite. There has never been opposition to the government’s routine yearly $4 trillion corporate welfare and handouts to the one percent, all built into the very fabric of U.S. tax codes and budgets. The same with Trump’s proposed trillion dollar budget deficit, with the national debt projected by the Congressional Budget Office to rise over the next decade to $31 trillion by 2030, an amount that will exceed the entire U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This follows virtually the same multi-trillion dollar “quantitative easing” program of the Obama administration which in 2008 distributed trillions in bailouts and near-zero interest loans to the same superrich that Trump is beholden to today.
Trump’s “new” Israel plan
Trump’s new plan for “peace” between Israel and Palestine, a peace without Palestinians, is a virtual duplicate of the bi-partisan U.S. policy that has rendered what remains of historic Palestine a tiny, isolated, Israeli military-patrolled, economically unviable Bantustan akin to the racist policies of apartheid South Africa in decades past. Trump merely seeks to formalize what has been U.S. policy under every administration since Israel’s illegitimate colonial-settler state formation in 1947. Not a hint of opposition from the Democrats, who, like Trump, prioritize Israel funding to the tune of $3 billion annually – a sum that exceeds “foreign aid” to any other nation.
Trump’s anti-abortion politics mirror Democrats
In contrast to Trump and Co., the Democratic Party platform purports to support abortion rights, supposedly in accord with the 60 percent of all U.S. women who favor abortion. But Democrats have played virtually no role in thwarting the plethora of anti-abortion laws approved in recent years across the country. To be sure, no Democratic Party president has ever seriously moved abolish the infamous 1976 Hyde Amendment, named after former Representative Henry Hyde, Republican of Illinois. This amendment to a House appropriations bill bans the expenditure of federal funds to pay for abortions, except in extremely limited circumstances. The amendment, which effects millions of women, especially working class and poor women, has remained in force today when eighty-seven percent of all U.S. counties have no abortion provider whatsoever.
The Democrats’ election time rhetoric in June 2019 included statements that all of its then 21 Democratic Party presidential candidates, except Joe Biden, favored the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. Biden soon after also whistled a pro-abortion tune. But after 44 years on the books and regardless of which of the twin parties of capital are in power, the Hyde prohibition remains in place!
Nancy Pelosi’s dramatic gesture
At the conclusion of Trump’s State of the Union address, in full public view, and while Trump gloated at the praise from his fawning Republican cohorts, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, standing behind him, tore up Trump’s speech, demonstratively and repeatedly picking up bunched pages which she shredded with an angry grimace. But Pelosi’s Democrats on the critical issues of the day stand shoulder to shoulder with their corporate peers on the other side of the isle.
It is in this context that an honest evaluation of Bernie Sanders and his Democratic Party primary contenders must be made. “How will you fund your Medicare for All proposal?” Sanders is repeatedly asked, as if the costs were prohibitive in today’s economy. Sanders has been repeatedly vague on this critical issue, but not because he seeks to back off on advocating for a proposal that is the norm in most industrialized nations. Sanders, whose “radical” proposals to tax the wealth of the nations’ billionaire at a rate of 2 or 3 percent after their first $50 million and then increase the rate progressively until the wealth of billionaires is subjected to tax rates of a few points higher, is incapable of uttering the simple response, “I would tax the corporate elite down to the nails in the shoes on their feet.”
The same with Sanders’ Green New Deal, where he proposes a ten-year, $17 trillion program to end the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels without a full and immediate government takeover of the entire multi- trillion dollar fossil fuel industry and its rapid conversion to a safe and sustainable energy system with all workers fully protected in the transition. Sanders’ Green New Deal, in truth and in the context of its co-existence with the capitalist system itself, amounts to rhetorical election campaign bluster and bluff. The same with his utterances regarding unspecified cuts in the military and any other proposals that effectively challenges capitalist prerogatives. To do so would necessarily challenge the legitimacy of the rapacious capitalist system itself, a move that all of Sanders’ leading team insists would undermine his “electability.”
In truth, today’s crisis-ridden capitalism seriously needs a Bernie Sanders on the ballot, traversing the country and breathing hope into millions of people increasingly dispossessed, without opportunities to live a decent life. Sanders asks his youthful, multi-racial and multi-generational supporters to storm the heavens to make him the Democrats’ presidential candidate and future president. He has prevailed to date in Iowa and New Hampshire in the face of a conscious effort by Democratic Party elites and the corporate media to place one obstacle after another in his path—from the current array of media-promoted “moderates” and “left centrists” like previously unknown South Bend, Indiana mayor Peter Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, to the yesterday “left,” today more “moderate,” former Republican-turned Democrat Elizabeth Warren, not to mention the former Obama Vice President and semi-segregationist Joseph Biden. Billionaire 62 times over Michael Bloomberg, NYC’s former “progressive” mayor, who boasts of his willingness to spend an unlimited amount of his fortune on his campaign—and had already spent $200 million of it by the end of last year—has also thrown in his hat.
While Sanders rails at the billionaire candidates he confronts, his repeated assertions that he will be a loyal supporter of whomever emerges from the current pack, as he did in 2016 after losing to Hillary Clinton, constitutes his unquestioned allegiance to the capitalist system of perpetual war, racism, sexism, LGBTQI discrimination, exploitation, poverty and environmental catastrophe. Tragically, much of today’s “left” has once again rejected independent working class politics, that is, a clear and clean break with Democrats. Once again, the siren call of lesser-evilism has led many on the left to rationalize support for Sanders, and indeed, to “anyone but Trump” in 2020.
Building the socialist alternative begins with a clear break with capitalist politics in all its manifestations.