Give Capital What It Wants…or Else

Photograph Source: wwwuppertal – CC BY 2.0


The Orange Beast Runs Free, Dreaming of Vengeance

Two seemingly separate news stories are darkly and intimately related to each other in ways that you will not see intelligently discussed on “Meet the Press” or “Washington Week.”

The first story is the fascist ogre Donald Trump continuing to run free and menace the nation even after having been impeached twice during a white-supremacist presidency that included:

+ the mass pandemicist murder of hundreds of thousands of Americans

+ the stripping of basic environmental and social protections

+ the theft of migrant children from parents’ arms

+ the deployment of border paramilitaries to crush social justice and anti-racist protests in US cities.

+ the repeated embrace of fascist white power thugs and open endorsement of right-wing political violence

+ the recurrent use of eliminationist and demonizing rhetoric against political enemies and racialized Others

+ a multipronged campaign to subvert and nullify a presidential election

+ the instigation and planning of a mass physical assault on the nation’s capital meant to stop Congressional certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory

+ much more horrible to contemplate (see the third chapter of my next book for an attempted comprehensive list and categorization of Trump’s crimes as president).

The neo-Confederate beast continues to hold Orwellian hate rallies and enforce its will on the Republican Party. It is gearing up for a very real shot at returning to the world’s most powerful office. Originally loathe to run again for fear of being labelled a two-time loser, it is now almost certain to throw its hat back in the ring for 2024. It is chomping at the bit to announce its candidacy because of the decrepit dollar Democrat Joe Biden’s declining popularity and the calculation that Republican efforts to suppress and (even worse) nullify Democratic votes in contested states will further guarantee its success. A poll released last week by Emerson College shows Trump beating Biden in a hypothetical matchup, 45 to 43%. Biden’s approval rating has fallen to a pathetic 38%. As a veteran political sociologist tells me, “The rules of a bad economy hurting support didn’t apply for Trump and his cult. Biden, yes. He never had much support from his base. Plus, it’s a nation full of hateful, fashy sympathetic morons.”

Capitol Riot organizers planned the fascist January 6th coup attempt in dozens of meetings with Trump’s White House staff and Trumpist Congress members. The meetings included the promise of a “blanket pardon” from the Oval Office. So what? Who cares? The “in-power” Democrats show few signs that they will punish Trumpzilla for its crimes. The House of Representatives’ January 6th Commission is by all indications a paper tiger. The leading Trump putsch planner and global fascist strategist Steven “Camp of the Saints” Bannon is openly defying its subpoena powers, daring “Weimar Joe” Biden’s meek Attorney General Merrick “No Guts” Garland to maybe someday consider charging him with criminal contempt. While federal judges send heroic environmental activists who try to protect water and save humanity from fossil-fueled ecocide are sent to prison for eight years on felony “terrorism” charges, “fascist traitors” (Jamie Raskin’s accurate characterization of the Capitol Rioters) who violently stormed the nation’s representative branch to overthrow an American election and install the malevolent brute Trump as a dictator are getting off with light misdemeanors. Look for the ludicrous buffoon Rudy “Four Seasons” Giuliani, to serve as the fall guy to provide cover for Trump’s latest “exoneration.”

If it can return to power, the Trumpenstein will come back determined to viciously punish those it views as having wronged (opposed) it. Listen to the following observation from former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, reported to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa after Parscale spoke to his former boss last July: “[It]had an army. An army for Trump. [It] wants that back…I don’t think [it] sees it as a comeback. [It] sees it as vengeance.” With full control of Congress alongside a shockingly right-wing federal courts system, dozens of neofascistic red state governments and an armed network of white power terrorists in his pocket in 2025, the Malignant One will have considerable power to enforce its vengeful and narcissistic will.

And it may not even matter all that much if Trump is cancelled by a Republican Party that opts for a more family-friendly face of fascism – someone like Greg Youngkin. The nation’s rightmost major party has been going white nationalist and eliminationist, essentially fascist, for many years. This Trumpist transformation has a life beyond Trump himself. The Trump years opened the door for the normalization and mainstreaming of noxious neofascist sentiments and conduct previously considered outside acceptable presidential norms. And Trumpism-fascism could become a more lethal virus with someone less outwardly toxic and virulent like Youngkin as its more family-friendly face going forward.

Gutting the B4 in Service to the Bourgeoisie: Beneath and Beyond Manchinema

A Jacobin Take

The second story is right-wing (so-called “moderate”) Democrats’ gutting of the bourgeois Build Back Better bill (B4). As the social democrat Ben Beckett writes from (fittingly enough) Vienna, Austria, in Jacobin:

To everyone’s chagrin, negotiations drag on among Democrats on the Build Back Better Act, Joe Biden’s signature social spending bill. While we don’t yet know what the final bill will contain, the media has reported, blow-by-blow, as one progressive proposal after another has been cut, in a drawn out and seemingly futile effort to appease conservative Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona…It didn’t have to be this way. The bill started as a $6 trillion social spending proposal from Bernie Sanders, what he called “the most consequential piece of legislation for working families since the 1930s.” Days later, Democrats announced they would spend no more than $3.5 trillion, but there was still a lot for progressives and working-class people to like: tuition-free community college; expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and vision care; lowering Medicare eligibility to age sixty; paid family leave for new parents; and subsidies for childcare.

Now, virtually all of that is off the table, and the spending is down to $1.75 trillion. It seems all but certain that whatever new programs make it to Biden’s desk for his signature will be minimal, temporary, means-tested, difficult to explain, and even harder to access — and will still lag far behind every other highly developed country. Because they had to appease two conservative senators, Democrats missed a critical chance to instead develop the kind of highly visible, popular programs that create deep-seated voter loyalty. More important, millions of people have been robbed of the sorely needed relief Biden campaigned on.

Okay, yes but hold on. “To everyone’s chagrin?” Not to the chagrin of capital, which does not wish for an expanded social safety net or any other victories, no matter how small, for humane public policy supported by progressive taxation. Not to the chagrin of the Republifascists, who hate “socialism” (a label they put on any program that might help the poor) and who want the Democrats to fail in their effort to expand “voter loyalty.” Not to the chagrin of the eco-extremist fossil fuel industry, which was uncomfortable with the bill’s initial green provisions. Not to the chagrin of Big Pharma, which does not wish to see its Mafia-like pricing and profits power rolled back to any degree.

These folks and interests have thoroughly enjoyed watching the prolonged and sadistic “sausage-making” shit-show that has been the nauseating spectacle of the two-headed Manchinema Monster viciously eating the B4 alive.

Not that the B4 was ever radical. It was reformist and inadequate from the start, far short of deep re-structuring required. Still, capital is opposed to even the slightest hints of social democracy (which could inspire further moves down the path of human decency and solidarity) and the Republicans have long been playing the neo-McCarthyite (and fascist) card of labelling centrist corporate Democrats as “the Radical Left.”

“Because they had to appease two conservative Senators”? The two reptilian Senators – Kyrsten “What Not to Wear” Sinema ($-Big Pharma and AZ) and Joe “Party Boat” Manchin ($-Big Carbon and WV) – are just stooges for the real American “deep state”: the bourgeoisie. The capitalist class owns the allegiance, world view, and policy votes of most Senators, including many Democrats who have been more than happy to seem aligned with majority progressive popular sentiments while knowing that Sinema, Manchin, and the Republifascists are in place to gut the bill. The class rule superstructure follows and expresses the capitalist material rule base, comrades. And then there’s the anti-democratic Minority Rule mal-apportionment of the in US Senate, where the nation’s most reactionary white and rural regions are so absurdly over-represented that liberal California would possess more than 130 representatives in the Senate if it had the same population-to-senator ratio as racist Wyoming. Would anyone like to seriously address the brutal violation of the elementary democratic principle of one person, one vote in the Senate, the gerrymandered House, the preposterous Electoral College, and the judicial branch, not to mention in the dollar-drenched campaign finance system (what Jamie Raskin and his onetime fellow former Harvard law student John Bonifaz once cleverly labeled “the wealth primary”) – and (by the way) the underlying bourgeois class dictatorship ruling the nation’s underlying material base, in whose service state and politics function?

The sorely needed relief Biden campaigned on.” The key word here is “campaigned.” What Democratic politicians “campaign on” and what they actually do in office are very different things under capitalism. At the risk of stating the over-obvious, they say one thing and do another. The manipulation of populism by elitism and the trumping of humane and progressive-sounding words by sociopathic capitalist deeds are the longstanding true essence of US-American politics, which always bears the hidden reserve tag marking ownership by the rich and powerful.

When Joe Biden Spoke Truth to Power

When the audience requires it and can be trusted, some truth can be stated by pols like Biden. Standing with a campaign contribution cup before some Lords of Creation at a Manhattan fundraiser in 2019, Biden was caught on tape promising the masters that “No one’s standard of living would change, nothing would fundamentally change,” when he became president. Now that’s called speaking (subservient) truth to power! The politicos’ progressive- and populist-sounding language is for the powerless – for the vast majority of corporate-managed citizens relegated to de facto denizen status in the bourgeois fake democracy. That includes the nice West Virginians who paddle little liberal kayaks out to the coal baron Manchin’s aristocratic yacht, futilely beseeching their haughty master to do the right thing for the planet and the common good. “Senator Manchin,” the Kayakers chanted, “your constituents are here. Please don’t sink West Virginia” (in flooding born of capitalogenic climate change). Great, except King Joe Manchin’s real constituency is the fossil fuel industry and its financial investors, a ruling-class group of which he is himself apart. They Rule. “Deep-seated voter loyalty” is nice but let’s be clear about the fealty that matters most to Democratic politicians: that between them and their backers and bankrollers. We need to sink their yachts, not beg them from our commoners’ kayaks and canoes like little Oliver Twist asking the workhouse boss “please sir, more, …more decency.” There is no decency under capitalism (more on that topic below).

Standard Dominant Media Narratives to Keep Attempted Decency at Bay

Bourgeois class rule is written all over the dominant media coverage of the B4’s tribulations. Corporate media talking heads insist on blaming supposedly “too left” and “excessively woke” progressive Democrats for wanting too much when the real barriers to passage have been the reactionary, capital-funded recalcitrance of Republicans and right-wing Democrats– and the officially unmentionable right-wing apportionment of the Senate itself. With lonely exceptions like Medhi Hasan, the media has absurdly insisted throughout the drama on calling the reactionary and corrupt Democrats Manchin and Sinema “moderates.” It has bleated on and on about the “massive” bill’s supposedly exorbitant “price tag,” deleting the fact that it would have been paid for by modestly increased levies on the nation’s absurdly under-taxed rich. Also beyond the parameters of acceptable reportage and commentary has been comparison of the proposed social spending with the giant sums regularly invested in the nation’s destructive Pentagon System, a colossal public subsidy to high-tech “defense” (war) corporations with the capacity to blow the world up many times over. And now the media and pundits trumpet the predictable defeat of the Democrats’ dismal, dollar-drenched gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in Virginia as “proof” that most Americans don’t want “woke” and “Marxist” programs like paid family leave and free community college.

Getting Things Done for Capital

If Biden was seriously committed to the progressive change Sanders has been telling voters the 46th POTUS wants, Sleepy Joe would have “woke” up to spend his first year in office using his bully pulpit, his political and policy levers to discipline Sinema and Manchin, to break through arcane and reactionary rules (the absurd and dispensable cancelling power of the filibuster and parliamentarian rulings) and push through meaningful voter rights and labor reform legislation, to expand the absurdly malapportioned Senate and Supreme Court, and much more. But Dollar Joe is a longtime Wall Street plaything masquerading as “lunch bucket Joe from hardscrabble Scranton.” He is not remotely committed to fighting for such change. Now, with his Build Back Better bill broken down by business class dominion and related, absurdly reactionary governance rules crafted by slaveowners and dating from the 18th Century, Biden bleats about “getting things done for the American people.”

“Getting things done” – that was one of the favorite phrases of the arch-neoliberal and imperialist president “Wall Street Barry” Obama, to whom we owe the bumbling Biden’s likely brief presence on the center stage of American and world history. It’s a recurrent “pragmatic” mantra of corporate Democrats to justify their longstanding accommodation to the corporate and financial ruling class. “Get things done” leaves out the content of what might actually be done. Hitler, “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and Pinochet got things done. The slaveowners of the antebellum era and the South African apartheid regime got things done. Harry Truman got things done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Big Oil gets things done. I could go on.

Give the Nice Cop What He Wants or the Bad Cop Will Have His Way with You

As if the reactionary vapidity of the call to get something – anything! – done isn’t bad enough, the nation’s owners can count on their media to blame B4’s difficulties on the “too left” progressive Democrats. So what if anyone following the story with a shred of decency and intelligence knows that the original bill had majority popular support and that the main barriers to Senate passage were opposition from absurdly over-represented Republicans and at least two reptilian Senate Democrats? The point is to use the specter of a full and vengeful fascist comeback to shame and scare the progressive-Dem Sanders and AOC Congressional bloc into voting for a brutally eviscerated version of the bill. Never mind that the comeback will be enabled precisely by the popular demoralization created by the neoliberal Democrats’ captivity to capital.

This is the basic message: “If you don’t give the corporate Democratic good cop Biden something – anything – to run on, letting him tell voters he ‘got things done,’ then the Republifascist bad cop is going to return to kick your ass.” This is the fox party, the Democrats, maintaining internal discipline in service to its owners, by reminding its “too woke” and “too radical” wing that the wolf party, the Republicans, is out there with its teeth bared. This is part of the co-dependent dance of the two-canine capitalist party system.

It seems to have worked, drawing strength from the family friendly fascist Youngkin’s supposed “upset” victory over the creepy Clintonian McAuliffe with a campaign that advanced the ridiculous, paranoid-style idea that Virginia grade schoolers are being indoctrinated in supposedly Marxist “critical race theory.” All but six (the original Squad plus Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman) of the House Dem progressives caved last Friday night. The filthy-rich neoliberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used the corporatized Congressional Black Caucus to the great majority of the frightened progressives to give up on requiring the Senate to pass the (now ruthlessly whittled down) B4 before they would sign off on Biden’s big bourgeois and bipartisan infrastructure bill.

This is the essence of the hidden intimate relationship between Story #1 (Trump and Trumpism Live) and Story #2 (the Manchinema-led rape of the B4). There’s more than just weakness behind the Democrats’ unwillingness to punish Trump and his mob. The dismal dollar Dems’ participation with the nation’s creeping fascitization goes deeper than that. Their opposition is deeply inauthentic. They want the unhinged narcissist and “instinctive fascist” Trump and his minions free to menace the nation and world. Trump and Trumpism (possibly without Trump himself) have real uses for the Citigroup Dems and their owners. The (very real) right-wing peril works for them not just as a danger to run and raise money against but also as a whip handle to scare progressive Democrats trying to make policy in accord with majority public opinion into getting behind conservative legislation the mainstream Dems sell to voters as “getting things done” without overly antagonizing their elite capitalist bankrollers. So what if the Sanders-AOC wing of the Democratic Party would stand a far better chance of keeping the Republifascists at bay than the Biden-Harris-Morgan Stanley wing of the party because of the progressives’ greater willingness to represent millions of ordinary Americans who have been demoralized and demobilized by the dollar Dems’ never-ending service to concentrated wealth and power.

Capital and Top Dems Really Don’t Care, Do U?

Does keeping the fascist wolf alive pose real dangers to what’s left of democracy and indeed to life itself? Yes, of course, but let’s be honest: honoring majority opinion and keeping fascism at bay are not our owners’[1] top priorities. The nation’s unelected ruling class dictatorship lacks the internal cohesion, moral center, and, perhaps, even the power to stop the white power Republifascist’s return to full national power. The majority of the nation’s corporate and financial class elite would likely prefer for the nation to retain the deceptive cloak of bourgeois democracy, social inclusion, and rule of law. Still, virulent neofascism has considerable capitalist backing (the last surviving Koch brother and the despicable Rupert Murdoch are key examples). It’s not clear that the mostly non-fascist capitalist elite can put the fascist cat back in the bag once it’s been let out (Trump can fund his 2024 campaign adequately with big contributions from far-right capital and an army of small Amerikaner donors). And at the end of the day, amoral capital doesn’t really care all that much. As ever since its rise to power in 15th and 16th Century Europe, capital is quite pleased to accommodate itself to any social, political, and/or policy order (e.g., the antebellum US slave South, the fascist regimes of 20th Century Italy and Germany, numerous Third World Fascist regimes in which US corporations have long invested) that leaves its holy profit prerogatives and investment hegemony intact. The upper reaches of the US bourgeoisie didn’t speak up in any significantly forthright way against Trump until January 6, 2021, 99% of the way (as Doug Henwood noted last Spring) through fascist Don’s horrible reign.

The nation’s owners – the commanding heights masters of finance, tech, and production – would for the most part probably prefer a Clinton, Obama, and a Biden over a Trump, a de Santis, an Abbott or even a Youngkin in the White House but they’ll be happy enough to work with a full-on white-nationalist neofascist monster if they have to as long as the profits keep flowing. They’d definitely prefer a malignant brute like Trump or de Santis over a humane social democrat like Sanders, a Nazi reptile like Matt Gaetz over a dignified progressive like Ilhan Omar in the House.

Work with fascism? Sure. Remember fash frau Melania Trump’s jacket slogan, containing his chilling fascion (not a typo) statement: “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” That pretty much sums up the attitude of capital. During his stint as Orange Thing’s Secretary of State, Exxon-Mobil’s former CEO Rex Tillerson was appalled by Trump’s uncouth and uncaring conduct. But Tillerson and his company were perfectly content to bury his own company’s research showing that the massive extraction and burning of fossil fuels was going to lethally cook the planet’s climate. He and his ruling class comrades are so decent and caring as to hide their own cutting-edge research showing that they were profiting off the process of turning the entire planet into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber.

The American and global bourgeoisie is willing to cancel livable ecology, as is clear from its determination to tip the planet into irreversible ecocide by burning every last fossil fuel it can get its hands on. If it is willing to wipe out life itself in the name of profit, it is certainly happy to play ball with neofascism sliding “forward.”

I remember chattering “liberal” CNN skulls clucking over the amoral nothingness of Melania’s soulless jacket right before a commercial break selling one ecocidal service and product after another.

Capital doesn’t care, do U?

“Why Trump Will be Re-Elected”

Speaking of elites not caring, it’s hard not to agree with much of the following jaded judgement from W.J. Astore at LA Progressive:

‘Ready for four more years of Trump? I had no idea America elected Joe Manchin and the Senate Parliamentarian as the two most powerful people in our country. Senator Manchin has been the convenient obstacle and scapegoat for the corporate Democrats. He’s allegedly blocked tougher action on climate change. He’s helped to defund efforts to make community college free, to extend Medicare, to lower prescription drug prices, and so on. The Senate Parliamentarian, meanwhile, who is in fact unelected and has no real power, ruled that hiking the minimum wage is something that simply can’t be countenanced under budgetary reconciliation rules…The Democratic Party, like the Republican, answers to the owners and donors. It is doing exactly what it’s been told to do, abandoning all its progressive promises (it never had any principles) in the false name of compromise and bipartisanship. And this is exactly why Donald Trump will be reelected in 2024. Not that the corporate-owned Democrats care, mind you. Things are actually easier for them with Trump in office. They can raise more money off their fake “resistance” to Trump, and they can wash their hands of tax cuts for the rich and more and more corporate-friendly deals, blaming them on Trump when of course the Democrats too support all these things. For that matter, so too does the Supreme Court.’

But it’s not clear that things will be “actually easier” for all the dismal Dems with Trump (or some other Republifascist) back in the world’s most dangerous job. Trump and the Trumpist party’s quest for “vengeance” could come with seriously nasty consequences for Democrats and others. The Republikaners are not all just playing around with their rhetoric of political violence and “civil war.” A number of House Republicans wanted to vote for Trump’s second impeachment but held back for fear of their safety and the lives of their loved ones. Election officials, school-board members, retail store managers, and even school nurses are currently reporting death threats from the armed Trumpenvolk mobs of red, gun-mad Amerika. It’s difficult in the post-January 6 context not to suspect that basic physical fear of right-wing violence and future retaliation is a significant part of why elected and other public officials are unwilling to seriously punish Trump and his demented minions.

Pardon me for saying so, but it’s all so F’ing Weimar. It’s a deadly shame that almost nobody knows history here. It’s also no mistake.

B-4 Busted, B-2 Funded

Meanwhile, speaking of violence, we all look forward to Congress passing without controversy another giant Pentagon funding bill that far outspends the kneecapped B4 to grant lucrative cost-plus subsidies to needy welfare recipients like Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Northrup-Grumman, and Raytheon. The Pentagon System sustains a massive military Empire that accounts for 40% of world war spending and inflicts the largest single institutional carbon footprint on a dying planet whose world capitalist murder is served and protected by the United States Army, Airforce, Navy and Marines. Here are just a few entries from the US Department of “Defense’s” latest contract reporting:

Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, has been awarded a $10,863,000,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for Advanced Raptor Enhancement & Sustainment (ARES) for the F-22 Program Office… Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Florida, has been awarded a $97,336,915 firm-fixed-price contract modification (P00007) to previously awarded contract FA8682-21-C-0001…Lockheed Martin Sippican Inc., Marion, Massachusetts, is awarded a $105,668,584 firm-fixed-price modification…in support of the MK54 MOD 7 heavyweight torpedo program…General Dynamics Electric Boat Corp., Groton, Connecticut, is awarded a not-to-exceed $66,637,726 undefinitized contract action modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-2120 for lead yard support and development studies and design efforts related to Virginia-class submarines.

All this and much more in the way of taxpayer-funded socialism for the military industrial sector is of course completely uncontroversial inside the permanent political class – unlike federal funding for electric cars, the extension of dental and vision coverage to Medicare recipients, paid family leave, childcare subsidies and other forms of social uplift spending. This is the “spiritual death” that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about in Riverside Church exactly one year prior to his execution.

Endnotes

1. Yes, owners. His nihilistic pessimism aside, George Carlin was on to something in a famous 2006 concert rant: “There’s a reason that education sucks. And it’s the same reason that it will never ever. Ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better. Don’t look for it. Be happy with what you got. Because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now. The real owners. The big, wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians… they’re irrelevant. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners, they own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, and city halls. They got the judges in their back pocket. And they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear…The table is tilted, folks The game is rigged, and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Good, honest, hard-working people, white collar, blue collar, it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Good, honest, hard-working people continue to elect these rich c*#*suckers who don’t give a fuck about them. THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOU! THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU. AT ALL. AT ALL. AT ALL! Ya know?” This was a coldly accurate statement not about life and human prospects and sentiments in general but about the hellish death that is life under an uncontested capitalism and about the sentiments of capitalism’s masters. Shorn of its author’s crippling and fatalistic nihilism – more likely to send its listeners to a crack pipe than to a socialist – Carlin’s tirade was a call for socialist revolution. The oligarchy that Carlin railed against was of course nothing new. Actual popular self-government was the aristo-republican U.S. Founding Fathers’ ultimate nightmare and the governmental structure and political rules they etched in Constitutional stone were carefully crafted to keep the nightmare at bay and to make sure that, in the words of leading Founder John Jay, “the people who own the country run it.” Ninety years ago, the great American philosopher John Dewey observed that “politics is the shadow cast on society by big business.” Dewey rightly prophesized that U.S. politics would stay that way for as long as power resided in “business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents, and other means of publicity and propaganda.”

Paul Street’s new book is The Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and Politics of Appeasement.