Thursday, January 12, 2012


E.J. Dionne makes a hopeful prediction:

Thanks to Mitt Romney and such well-known socialist intellectuals as Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, the United States is about to have the big debate on the nature of modern capitalism that should have started back in 2008.

Gosh, I'd sure like to believe that, but I'm not sure it's true. And even if it is true, it's rather disheartening to see where the debate is going to start if even a liberal like Dionne frames it this way:

What if a certain class of capitalist makes scads of money not by building up companies but by tearing them down? What if there is a distinction between the capitalist we typically honor who comes up with a good product and hires people to make and market it; and another kind who takes over a company, pulls out all the cash he can, and then abandons it to die?

Yeah, what if? That would be really horrible, in the almost unimaginable event that it were true. Could that possibly be the case? Is it actually conceivable that some capitalism is evil?

That really would be the starting point for any debate we have in America on the nature of capitalism: whether it's an absolutely wonderful kind of fairy dust that heals whatever it touches 100% of the time ... or somewhat less than 100% of the time. Because this is America, and, as Gallup has pointed out recently, fear of big business has gone down during this endless recession. And as that new Pew poll notes, Americans increasingly see conflict between the rich and the poor, but their own distrust of the wealthy hasn't gone up one bit:

A narrow plurality (46%) believes the rich are wealthy because they were born into money or "know the right people." But nearly as many (43%) say the rich got that way because of their own "hard work, ambition or education."

The latest result is virtually identical to the findings of a 2008 Pew survey. It found that 46% of the public believed that riches are mostly the result of having the right connections or being born into the right family, while 42% say hard work and individual characteristics are the main reason the rich are wealthy.

(Emphasis added.)


And are we really sure we're going to have a Bain-fueled debate about capitalism at all? Here's Mitt Romney about to use big bucks to turn the general perception of his work at Bain to "opinions differ":

Campaign advisers are polishing new messaging, tailored to rebut Republican and Democratic attacks separately. They’re cueing up new commercials.

And they're rolling out a more aggressive approach from the candidate himself....

They'll start with advertisements featuring employees of companies started and rescued by Bain telling their stories -- a direct response to the documentary released by the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC that features employees of four companies closed by Bain that brutally slams Romney as a job killer....

Romney adviser Kevin Madden said they’re confident they’ll quash those attacks with their new rebuttal.

"For every scare story that they try to present related to the governor's experience in the private sector and free enterprise," Madden said, "we can point to a whole host of successful enterprises that have resulted in job creation and wealth and prosperity."

I'm afraid that we're going to wind up where we always seem to wind up -- with critics of capitalism on the defensive, and with any criticism of any capitalist enterprise successfully redefined as advocacy of full-blown socialism. And the only "big debate" we'll have is a rehash of the usual one: about whether government spending is the economic equivalent of the Ebola virus (utterly lethal and difficult to treat) or the HIV virus (more treatable but also extremely lethal). We never seem to tire of that one.


c u n d gulag said...

If I were Obama, I would take MITT 3.0 at his word when he says he And Bain Capitol created 100,000′s of jobs.
I’m sure he did:
In Mexico.
Central and South America.
The Philippines.

After all, MITT 3.0 has never specified that he helped create “American” jobs. Just – jobs.

Back to your original point - Bain is a highly secretive company which will not, like Mitt, disclose its finances. So, reporters who aren't lazy, stupid, ignorant, compliant, or complicit, will have a tough time finding out the "NET" jobs that Mitt and Bain may have created. Plus, or minus.
And, since they won't be able to provide alternative numbers, this is likely to work to Mitt's advantage.

In reality, if you really think about it, it's amazing that this country has survived as long as it has with an uninterested voter base full of stupid/ignorant voters, corrupt voting laws, procedures and restrictions, the amount of money in politics, and how, except for about 40+ years, everything has been gamed for the rich to get richer, and the poor and the middle to fight for table scraps from the tables of the rich.

The glory of this nation was from a few years right after The Great Depression and WWII up until Reagan was put in to dismantle that glory with a charming smile and a sunny disposition, all the better help him and the people behind him mask the murderous instincts of the professional assassins and sociopathic country-killers who were behind him.

And the great unraveling continues...

Anonymous said...

Actually, capitalism is an intrinsically evil system.

It selects a few to be owners and the rest to be proles and then empowers the few to organize the entire economy in such a way as to maximally exploit the proles, the measure being profit to the owners.

Democratic socialism, on the other hand, seeks to organize production in such as way as to maximally satisfy the needs and desires of the ordinary people of the nation.

Progressivism seeks to regulate capitalism in such a way as to bring the economy closer to those aimed at by democratic socialism.

Conservatism seeks to resist or nullify any such effort, maximizing the ability of the few propertied (the capitalist class) to exploit the many (the propertyless, proletarian class) to their own profit.

Go ahead.


proverbialleadballoon said...

i'm in agreement with the last paragraph of the post. the real problem (one of them, anyway) is that no real honest discussion can be had, when the 'two choices' are framed liberal and conservative, when in reality the two choices are center-right and far-right. we've allowed the right to dictate the terms and play the game on their home turf. until the frame is pulled back to the left, we're screwed.

of course, i don't have any ideas how to do this. the media is complicit in the game-rigging. president obama can't have an honest talk about what socialism really is or why certain european economies are doing fine while the rest of europe looks like it will tank sometime this year. his critics could easily say, see we were right all along. so the point needs to be made somewhere lower, but does anyone have faith that it will happen in congress, or at the state level? i don't.

when i identify myself as a socialist (social democrat, really, but that entails more explanation), it is usually effective. the conservative with whom i am speaking actually has to process 'wait, he doesn't want to destroy america'. but that is on a personal level. so maybe we need to take this sh!t personal, fight the good fight person to person. but that could take years and cost millions of lives...i think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part, and we're just the guys to do it.

really though, i think this is where occupy comes in. playing the game outside of the lines and not co-opted by the big money boys. person to person, one at a time, change minds. it'll take years, maybe a generation, but then, as gulag points out, this has been forty years in the making, so one can't expect it to be fixed overnight. the demographics are in our favor, it's just going to take a long time. so, as long as we don't destroy ourselves between now and 2028, everything should be cool. :)

proverbialleadballoon said...

@ gracchus: spot on with the definitions, if only the options were framed that way by our media or the politicans themselves. and try that with a conservative, when discussing, say, denmark. 'they pay 50% in taxes' is all they hear, and not 'they have universal healthcare, universal university, a healthy economy, everyone owns a home, and they are consistently at the top of the charts when it comes to upward mobility and the happiness index.' people can't get past the taxes.

jazz lover said...

hey! i go away for a few months and now nobody's using caps? what the hell?

teadoust said...

it's me, dammit! and i don't much care for your new commenting system either. dammit!

Steve M. said...

I thought everyone thought my old comment system sucked.

teadoust said...

i liked being able to respond directly to other comments and "liking" them.

Steve M. said...

I did too -- when I could comment at all, which wasn't always. (Plus, this doesn't cost ten bucks a month.)