My Prescription For The UK Economy

This post first appeared at Imagine Democracy.

Building on Public Investment Is The Way Forward For The UK:

The first task of the new government is get people back on their feet. (And get them fed.) Fast. Send “stimulus” checks ASAP. Then inject funds into the economy through public investment, rebuilding infrastructure (including potholes). Seriously invest in rebuilding the NHS and in a big hurry. Get things moving. Fast. Big.

That will bring the return that “funds” it.

The alternative is to fail, and usher in fascism, which is happening in so many countries that refuse to “spend” on making people’s lives better.

I have spoken.

Why I Don’t Have Time For Republicans – Any Of Them

This morning Ann Coulter circulated a piece saying that the Britt fiasco was the result of Republicans using “DEI” to find a SOTU spokesperson, and this is what happens when you put a female there for quota reasons instead of a white male. Because OF COURSE no one would ever put anyone other than a white make anywhere important.

I’m just so sick of this vile stuff.

I have studied the “conservative movement” long enough to understand what it is about, and their goals. I have documented the backgrounds, training, methods and funding of right-wing operatives and how they develop their propaganda and for what purposes.

I do listen to them and read their stuff, to see what they’re up to. I used to have a gig with Media Matters where I’d do a roundup of what their outlets were saying, every morning, with an analysis of the reasons they were saying it, and how that furthered their objectives. That newsletter was circulated to progressive groups and elsewhere. I had to look at things like pictures of decapitated black kids, or drawings of big-nosed greedy Jews. That was a cesspit of the worst of humanity and it left me scarred.

So excuse me for avoiding them and not approving of giving them even wider platforms and bestowing legitimacy.

What Biden And Dems Should Say About The Economy

Biden and Democrats should be explaining to the public that, “The economy is starting to turn around.”

Polling vs The Reality

Polling shows that people feel “the economy” is doing really poorly right now. Every poll. “Grim” numbers.

Lots of top Democrats are reacting to this by saying that all the “numbers” show that the economy is actually doing really, really well. It seems like these voices are declaring that the voters are wrong, which is politically a terrible approach.

What To Say?

Telling the voters they are wrong is a recipe for electoral disaster. What should Democrats be telling the public when the numbers are great but the public says they’re feeling terrible about the economy? Here is how this was successfully handled in the past.

When Obama was running for reelection people were in a sour mood and a “businessman” (Mitt Romney) was running against him. Republicans were telling the public that government should be “run like a business” (Strip the government and harvest the public for profit?) and this meant they should elect a businessman.

The “Explainer-in-Chief” Speaks

Along came Bill Clinton to speak at the 2012 Democratic Convention. Whatever you might think of his policies, Clinton had amazing spot-on political instincts. He said Obama feels the country’s pain. He said things have been bleak for a long time. He said we’ve taken hit after hit, faced problem after problem. But now we’re turning the corner. Everything is in place thanks to Obama and things are starting to get better. You will feel it, just give it a little more time.

He explained things so well he was labelled “Explainer-in-Chief.”

Here is more of what Clinton said in the 2012 speech that I think re-elected Obama

He inherited a deeply damaged economy. He put a floor under the crash. He began the long, hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for innovators. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, are we where we want to be today? No.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No!

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Is the president satisfied? Of course not.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No!

PRESIDENT CLINTON: But are we better off than we were when he took office? (Cheers, applause.)

And listen to this. Listen to this. Everybody — (inaudible) — when President Barack Obama took office, the economy was in free fall. It had just shrunk 9 full percent of GDP. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month.

Are we doing better than that today?

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Yes! (Applause.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON: The answer is yes.

Now, look. Here’s the challenge he faces and the challenge all of you who support him face. I get it. I know it. I’ve been there. A lot of Americans are still angry and frustrated about this economy. If you look at the numbers, you know employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend again. And in a lot of places, housing prices are even beginning to pick up.

But too many people do not feel it yet.

Read the rest here. It’s actually a fun read.

My Point

Clinton single-handedly reelected Obama with that speech. My point is, Biden & Dems need to be saying, “We understand how hard it has been and we’ve been working on it. It is starting to turn around.” Not what they’ve been saying, “Shut up stupid voters, things are great, stop whining about the economy.”

I have spoken.

You Can’t Shame A Corporation But You Can Shame Executives

The tactic of trying to “shame” a corporation away from harming the environment, consumers and/or democracy relies on a misunderstanding of what a corporation is. Corporations serve as masks for the actual power-brokers, absorbing the public disdain for the power-brokers’ decisions.

If activists want to change the decisions made they have to realize that a corporation’s executives and Board members make decisions, corporations don’t. The recent post Understanding What a Corporation Actually Is Can Help Restore Democracy explains,

Here’s the thing: A corporation is a contract. It is a legal agreement enabled by our (“We the People”) government. That’s it.

Corporations are not sentient entities. Contracts don’t “think” or “want” or “need” or say” or “care” or “do” anything. Neither does a will, nor a lease, nor a confidentiality agreement. Corporations also can’t be “greedy” or “criminal” or “good” or “altruistic.” But people can.

Corporations don’t do things, but the executives & Board of the corporation do do things.

Go After The Doers

Corporations don’t “behave,” executives and Board members do. Executives and Board members also care more about their personal interests than about the interests of a corporation or institution they are supposed to be managing. Instead of thinking you can change corporate “behavior,” activists should instead go after the executives and Board members who actually make decisions.

Unions Understand Power

Way back when I was consulting for unions I was involved in a campaign to get a large public institution to stop hiring non-union construction companies. This involved researching the Board members of the institution, learning about their public lives, and finding strategic points to target.

Example, one Board member funded a symphony. The union targeted the symphony with very public actions naming and shaming the Board member for forcing people’s living standards down, risking worker’s safety, etc. The Board member cared what the symphony social group thought about him. The union shamed him in front of people who mattered to him.

Another Board member was an executive at a company that was getting ready to go public. The last thing he wanted was bad publicity of any kind directed at him.

The union conducted other similar public shaming actions targeting the actual decision-makers.

The union publicly shamed the decision-makers, not some non-sentient entity (a corporation or institution) that masked the actual decision-makers. Things changed real quick.

July 16 Marks 20 Years Of Seeing the Forest

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

First post, July 16, 2002, Ralph Nader is a Scab:

In the union movement we learned the hard way that the only way to fight the moneyed interests is to stick together. It’s called SOLIDARITY. It’s what “union” MEANS.

When unions are in a fight the members stick together, and those crossing the lines are called “scabs”.

In the 2000 election it was the usual fragile Democratic coalition fighting the usual moneyed interests. Ralph Nader broke the solidarity, divided the coalition, and lost us the election. Ralph Nader is a scab.

No one was “taught a lesson” by people voting for a 3rd party to “teach the Democrats a lesson.” We got Bush and death and corruption and destruction. OBVIOUSLY “the Democrats” did not learn the lesson.

Vote for the right person in primaries! Get the bad Democrats out. Then show up and vote for the Democrat in the general. No matter what. Otherwise the fascists win.

How To Fix The World

I have come to believe it is a waste of time to discuss “policy” anymore. Billionaires and corporations control the legislative and administrative branches. And that’s that. Period.

We can’t get anything through the Congress, no matter what. The Executive branch lives in a neoliberal mindset. The agencies are controlled by lobbyists. (Once in a while something can happen, but if we fix corruption, we fix all of it.)

Activists should put 100% of effort into fixing this. Fix money in politics and corruption. Nothing we advocate can happen otherwise. Everything we fight for will happen if these are fixed – because the public wants the same things. (That’s why we do what we do.)

There really is no other fight.

Dem “Establishment” Lucrative Losers

The Democratic party “establishment”… The elderly “centrist” leadership, the high-paid consultants, the fundraisers, the lobbying class…

For all their “practicality” about turning to the right to win elections, obviously the only winning election strategy is showing voters they’re on their side. But the “conventional wisdom” and advice to candidates is rarely to do that.

It’s all about the money. Raising enough money for candidates requires backing off from anything that smells like it might be “to the left,” which means helping actual working people. (Also known as “the voters.”)

The “practical” belief that only lots of money (showing donors whose side they are on) can win elections has cost Democrats so many local and national seats over the years. And it has cost the country & planet almost everything. But you have to admit it has been a lucrative practice for a lot of top Dems.

It is difficult to get top Dems to understand something, when their lucrative payoffs depend on their not understanding it.

Democrats PLEASE Sell The Soup

New poll: The public overwhelmingly supports Democratic POLICIES, and at the same time Republicans have the biggest lead in the “generic ballot” EVER.

How can that be?

For a while I had a software “evangelist” job where I would go out to small startup companies full of engineers that were developing software products for an operating system, and try to help them become real companies. These “companies” were small groups of programmers who had come up with a product. I’d explain the need for investment capital, a good Board, etc…

But mostly I had to explain marketing.

Engineers always believed that if they made a great product they would do really well. People will flock to their product because it was better. They never, ever understood that people wouldn’t do that. I had to introduce them to the idea that they are not their customers. That the ways people get information are not the ways THEY got information. This was almost impossible to get across to people who in their own lives researched everything about technology and understood what they wanted and how to find it…

One of my formative moments was when I was visiting a software store to see how things were going. I say a guy pick up two competing software products, weighing them in his left and right hands. He bought the heavier one.

Dems really have to learn that the public doesn’t hear a list of product features, they hear the benefits. Sell the soup (h/t Anat), not the ingredients. AND SELL THE SOUP don’t just think people will hear about your soup because it tastes better. And seeing something about it in the NY Times does not mean people in Oklahoma are hearing about it.

The reason Campbell’s dominates supermarket soup shelves is because Campbell’s PAYS stores to put more of their product in front of the customer.

Democrats have for DECADES refused to invest in communication. (Remember the whole thing around creating Air America?) “Conservatives” have put literally billions into communication since the 70’s. They have developed a huge propaganda apparatus. Part of that has been the research, training and hiring that now means the public hears almost no Democratic-supporting voices ANYWHERE.

The Bipartisan Mistake

Joe Biden’s agenda – if it survives at all – was massively watered down by the insistence on negotiating a “bipartisan infrastructure bill.” This is the same thing that happened to Obama’s health care bill.

– Negotiating with bad-faith Republicans wasted months
– The result was ridiculous and requires the reconciliation bill to restore essential components
– The reconciliation bill is being watered down by corporate interests paying some Democrats
– The reconciliation bill might even be killed by these corporate interests

What is it about Democrats that causes them to instinctively require Republican permission to get anything done?

This time they’re fucking around with the last remaining effort to do something to contain the climate crisis.

Always Say “Jim Crow Filibuster” or “Racist Filibuster”

Always use the phrase “Jim Crow Filibuster” or “Racist Filibuster.” This takes away the cover of pretending the filibuster is a “norm” or “tradition” as an excuse for not killing it.

Senators like Manchin should not be asked if they support “ending the filibuster,” they should be asked if they support “keeping the racist filibuster.”

The Senate filibuster has a racist past and present. End it so America can move forward.

The nature of the filibuster, its rules and norms, is hardly an iron-clad tradition. It has changed and adapted greatly over the years since it first became popular in the civil rights era. But what hasn’t changed is its enduring connection to racism. The filibuster has always stood in the way of racial progress, whether employed by Southern Democrats of the Jim Crow era or the Republican Party today after a major shift in the party’s stance on racial equality. When you understand the filibuster’s racist past, it becomes clear that it has a racist present as well — and that we need to get rid of it.

Call it what it is, don’t let them take cover under “tradition.”

Don’t Nuke The Filibuster – Reform It

Dems should reform the filibuster to make it into what the public thinks it already is.

Currently there is a Senate rule that effectively means legislation is not allowed to pass unless it gets 60 votes. This is called the filibuster rule. It has allowed Republicans to obstruct everything that government can do to make people’s lives better for more than a decade.

But if you ask “regular” people what a filibuster is (I don’t mean people on Twitter or who obsessively follow the news, I mean regular, busy people) they will almost universally answer that a filibuster means senators talking all day and all night. They have no idea that there is a rule that effectively requires 60 votes for anything to pass.

The 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” led to public belief that a filibuster involves a senator talking until he or she can’t stand up anymore when they believe something being done is just wrong. They would go on as long as they could. This dramatic act gets news, and alerts the public to pay attention. It gives supporters time to rally their forces. Then the public can contact their senators and let them know if they should go ahead or stop.

Reform The Filibuster

In stead if “nuking” the filibuster Democrats should ask for filibuster reform. Get rid of the ridiculous rule that allows every bill to be blocked if it can’t get 60 votes. Return to a rule that allows a senator to talk and talk and give the public time to rally. Bring back this system that protects the minority, but in a way that makes it a rare, dramatic event. It is the rarity of the event that gives it its value.

It is not a “nuclear option” to change the rules to what the public thinks the rules already are.

It’s Intimidation, Not “Moderation”

The Nation has a great piece by By Guy T. Saperstein and Joe Cirincione, titled, Americans Want Jobs, Not War. It describes how to talk about war spending in ways that move the public toward progressive positions. Please read it.

Dems “Afraid” of how they will “Appear”.

One early line stood out to me, “Democrats are afraid of appearing weak on defense.”

This line says so much about our national discourse. We are so used to hearing it. Democrats do things because they are afraid of how things they do and say will “appear.” They don’t want to “be seen as” holding certain positions that trigger a certain response.

Just how does that “appearance” reach the public? Through our nation’s information channels. Think about this. In a supposed democracy members of the country’s majority party are “afraid” of how they will be “made to appear” if they do not conform to certain positions.

It’s Intimidation

Let’s call this what it is: it is intimidation. They are intimidated.

Instead of providing the public with objective information to help citizens govern themselves in a democracy, our nation’s information channels are structured to enforce a system of allowable do’s and don’ts. The dominance of the right-wing/lobbyist intimidation machine is so pervasive that we no longer understand it could be different.

“Imagine If A Democrat Did That”

Every time a Democrat says, “I don’t want to be seen as” not being supportive of our troops we are acknowledging that we are living in an environment of intimidation. Every time Republicans do something and we all say, “Imagine if a Democrat had said/done this,” we are acknowledging an intimidation machine. But we are not saying the words

“If a Democrat did this” really means our information sources are intimidated into making a big bru-ha about anything a Democrat does and ignoring when a Republican does it because careers and reputations are destroyed. And therefore the targets of this are intimidated as well.

A “moderate” Democrat is simply a Democrat who gives an appropriate nod to being intimidated and therefore controlled by the corporate/right intimidation machine.