Wednesday, November 16, 2016


BuzzFeed just published a transcript of a speech Steve Bannon gave at a 2014 conference conducted at the Vatican by a conservative Catholic organization called the Institute for Human Dignity. I'm particularly struck by one passage in the speech:
... there’s a strand of capitalism today -- two strands of it, that are very disturbing.

One is state-sponsored capitalism. And that’s the capitalism you see in China and Russia. I believe it’s what Holy Father [Pope Francis] has seen for most of his life in places like Argentina, where you have this kind of crony capitalism of people that are involved with these military powers-that-be in the government, and it forms a brutal form of capitalism that is really about creating wealth and creating value for a very small subset of people. And it doesn’t spread the tremendous value creation throughout broader distribution patterns that were seen really in the 20th century.

The second form of capitalism that I feel is almost as disturbing, is what I call the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism. And, look, I’m a big believer in a lot of libertarianism. I have many many friends that’s a very big part of the conservative movement -- whether it’s the UKIP movement in England, it’s many of the underpinnings of the populist movement in Europe, and particularly in the United States.

However, that form of capitalism is quite different when you really look at it to what I call the “enlightened capitalism” of the Judeo-Christian West. It is a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people....
I want to say to Bannon: Have you met any of the people you'll be working with in a Trump White House, and in the larger Republican Party that dominates Washington (and is full of people who want to be Trump's allies)?

I've read that Mike Pence, after taking over the Trump transition team, banished the lobbyists; let's just say I'm skeptical. In a way, it doesn't matter: The self-dealing in the Trump administration is going to start at the top, with the president and his kids taking full advantage of their privileged position to make money for themselves. If that's not "state-sponsored capitalism," I don't know what is.

And how many of the Republicans who are going to fill the administration, or run Congress while working hand in glove with Trump, are libertarians who want to "make people commodities"? The majority? Maybe they're not pure libertarians, but they've read the books, or at least imbibed the ideas, and they certainly treat libertarianism as the appropriate economic philosophy -- at least for you and me, while the wealthy get to socialize their losses as they privatize their profits.

Does Bannon really believe any of what he says? I think he may have persuaded himself that he does, just as he's persuaded himself that Trump isn't a crony capitalist, nor are any of his allies.

I'd like to believe there's a slight chance that Bannon will someday look around him at the looting enabled by Trump, Ryan, and McConnell and say, "This is not what I signed up for! I quit!" Ha-ha, just kidding: Bannon will leave Trump World when he loses some internecine struggle, or when Trump's popularity goes south, or when he no longer believes he can leverage the power of Trump for his own personal gain.

But when he does leave, he may describe the departure as based on the principles articulated above. He may tell us that he thought Trump cared about "enlightened" capitalism that helps working people, but, dammit, Trump betrayed him! And maybe he'll go back to Breitbart as a Trump critic. Stranger things have happened -- who thought back in 2009 that Glenn Beck would be a voice of reason the next time we elected a Republican president?

I really don't think Bannon will flip -- not unless Trump is already so wounded that he's an easy target, like George W. Bush after Katrina and the 2006 midterms. But who knows? Bannon has some non-abhorrent theories. Maybe someday he'll act on them.


Victor said...

"...just as he's persuaded himself that Trump isn't a crony capitalist, nor are any of his allies."

No, I think that's exactly why he horned himself in!
t-RUMP is a great grifter, and Bannon can learn a lot from him. The people sorrounding him are lesser grifters who think they're top-notch ones. THEY are the ones ripe for the picking by Bannon - and, so maybe is t-RUMP.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Have you been following the articles about the nationalist right in Europe, published in The Guardian?

Many of the Euro-populists are OK with Big Government and talk about expanding health, education, and other welfare state benefits.

It is possible both Trump and Bannon are more like the European nationalists they admire and support in that respect than has suited the media to notice, up to now.

But throughout the past year standard issue conservatives have sometimes attacked Trump for being OK with Big Government and supportive of established entitlements, some insisting he's really a renegade Democrat who took over the Republican Party because he didn't have a chance to take over the Democrats in the year of Hillary and Bernie, and is anyway too un PC for the Dems.

For "un PC" I think we now know we can read "alt.right" or even "white nationalist".

But my point is that his Republicanism is not at all what the Randians, libertarians, and fiscal conservatives had and have at heart.

Thing is, the Trumpist movement has no bench.

There are no Trumpist, Bannonnist, Buchananite think tanks.

There is no Trumpist establishment.

So he is having a hell of a time finding people to appoint to the cabinet and a host of other positions that standard Republicans can easily fill with Koch robots, whenever they get the chance.

Apart from Bannon, Pat Buchanan, and Ann Coulter, who's there for him to lean on?

Milo Y at Breitbart, maybe?

Or David Duke?


Philo Vaihinger said...

Of course, if Josh Marshall is right, Trump has already dropped protection of Social Security and Medicare from his list of things to actually do.

It could have been bullshit from the beginning, or it could be he's just a loudmouth blowhard coward who surrenders the first time someone tells him NO to his face.

Is he jelly Ryan and the radical Ayn Randians can steamroll?

Or is he giving them what they want on this so they will give him what he wants somewhere else?

The wall?

A deportation force to get actually try to find and deport 11 million people?

Damned if I know.

Or anyone knows.

Feud Turgidson said...

I don't see where Bannon trashed "Third Way" capitalism.

Third Way, a.k.a. PPP, the incestuous relative of government divestiture of public property, previously known, misleadingly labeled (for the sole purpose of gathering up votes of the gullible) "national socialism".

Third Way, PPP, divestiture - we'll see a lot of those in years to come.

With Dump, it's all personal. Help him and you get rewarded (More accurately, you get a position where you can grift for yourself. It's really Pay To Play on nuked steroid, gangland style.), But if you dis'd him or someone in his family - such as by prosecuting his son-in-law's crook father, even tho Pops Kushner got Christie's sweetheart deal of a prosecutorial kiss - then you're dead fish in newspaper.

Raised by a crook, with a lazy student's degree (only peripherally from that "Wharton School" he misleadingly refers to all the time), trained by a larcenous racist father, got his post-grad in how to manipulate the legal system and exploit corporate status and cheat taxing authorities by the most disturbed and disturbing mob lawyer NY has ever produced (which really says something), stole, cheated & defrauded like a Marvel Comics bad guy thru a long rocky but uniformly disgusting career as an "entrepreneur", knows bupkis about government or ideology, grossly narcissistic, reflexively dismissive of everything beyond the reach of his grabby little hands, and utterly disloyal beyond (and I suspect even within, if pushed) his own family - nice presidential timber there.

Bannon helped Dump get elected; that's all that matters. If Bannon crosses Dump or a family member, even if Dump just thinks of merely feels that's happened, Dump-lesse Oblige will kick in, then Bannon sleeps with the fishes.

Professor Chaos said...

Creating wealth and value for a small subset of elites isn't a strain of capitalism. Its capitalism.
Its like saying there's a strain of basketball in which teams try to throw the ball through the hoop.

rclz said...

yea, I remember Bush's "compassionate conservatism" That's the one where Chenny and his private contractors made millions.... where they've done there best to sink the postal service, where they've tried to privatize every damn thing and in the end the tax payer pays more and gets less.

I see a future where we all end up with flint water. Although it will take longer in blue states because we'll fight for those pesky regulations.

jsrtheta said...

Oh, Philo, you are a caution! The "European nationalists" Trump admires? Do you think he could name one? Do you think he could actually define, even feebly, what "European nationalism" is? (BTW, that term is an oxymoron.)

Why, one reading your comments might come away with the idea that Trump has the vaguest idea of what policy is, and might even have policies! Do you think he knows what "Randian" means? Besides being for Rand Paul?

If you keep looking in the wrong places, you are in for a very difficult future.