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Fiscal Cliff Deal: “I’m Not Crazy; My Mother Had Me Tested.”

bazingaI don’t have much to add to this fiscal cliff deal nonsense; I’ve been resigned to whatever shafting has been coming our way from exalted leader on behalf of his corporate puppet-masters for awhile now…but let’s take this opportunity to reaffirm a few key points:

  1. Politics is theater. That is so, mostly because Obama and many (if not most) Democrats pretend towards so-called “progressive values” to satisfy a base that still doesn’t see that they are as beholden to big money as their Republican counter-parts.
  2. People who watch mainstream media will generally be fed either out and out lies or disinformation & misdirection to keep them confused about real-world financial matters.
  3. As much as I can sometimes doubt the fact that there is no representation of the people’s interests, and so we have been taken over – “democracy” has been subverted – as much as I can sometimes doubt that perception as “extreme” or “delusional”, this deal and the attendant hoopla confirms my “vaguely radical” suspicions.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s start with Business Insider’s account – they seem to hit all of the highlights:

Great News, Rich Americans! Congress Just Raised Taxes On Workers While Saving Investors Billions

Well, I suppose we could stop right there with the headline, but perhaps some of you would like the details?

Most of the attention around the Fiscal Cliff has been focused on income taxes.

The way the deal went down, a tiny portion of American taxpayers — households that earn more than $450,000 per year — will see their income taxes rise modestly, from 35% to 39.6%.

By not addressing the payroll tax, the Fiscal Cliff deal will also result in a tax hike for all working Americans, including those in the middle and poor classes. All income up to $110,000 will now be socked with a 2 point increase in the payroll tax, from 4.2% to 6.2%, which will pluck $2,000 out of the pockets of families making $100,000 a year.
So, already this is bad for two reasons: the $450,000 cut-off is a far cry from $250,000 and besides forfeiting significant revenues (if that was the goal) it also lessens the effectiveness of taxation to smooth out inequality (not that anyone thought that was a real goal, though it should be) and it means that a significant number of the people affected will be taking their income in capital gains type money, instead of salaries (which we’ll get to in a minute). So that’s the first problem with just the surface of the deal. As FireDogLake notes, even staunch Obama-friendly wonks like Ezra Klein are forced to mention this part of the betrayal.

President Obama campaigned for re-election on one central theme: those who’ve done well in America should pay more of their fair share. If you asked the lowest-information voter of 2012, s/he could probably tell you that Obama wanted to raise taxes on people making more than a quarter-million dollars a year. $250,000 was a number woven into every speech he made.

And, now, he seems to have abandoned even this benchmark as part of his ‘negotiation’ on the fiscal cliff.

Ezra Klein, loyal Administration mouthpiece, has noticed:

But after Obama won on a platform that was barely about anything aside from letting those tax cuts expire, it seemed inevitable he’d get it done. It was his due.

To the GOP’s delight, that no longer seems to be the case. In the Obama-Boehner negotiations, the White House offered to raise the threshold from $250,000 to $400,000. McConnell, in his negotiations with Harry Reid and now Joe Biden, has been trying to raise that to $500,000. It’s clear to the Republicans that they will get past the fiscal cliff with a smaller tax increase than they thought. Perhaps much smaller. Huzzah!

So, we shouldn’t gloss over this part of the betrayal, but we have so much more to get to…the second part of just the initial betrayal is that by allowing the payroll tax cut to expire, they have let one of the most effective tax-cut-stimulus initiatives move from effectively adding to demand to subtracting (from today’s baseline) from demand. People who will generally spend their money – working people across the entire income spectrum – just lost purchasing power.

To the uninitiated, it might almost look like the mythic “shared sacrifice”, although that logic escapes me, but it should be noted that even if you took equally from the very rich and from everyone else, the impact on aggregate demand is more when you take money from people who will spend it vs when you take it from people who will invest it anywhere in the world that finds high returns – whether inflating asset bubbles or not. But of course that isn’t what really happened – we didn’t “share in the sacrifice” – from Business Insider again:

Dividend taxes for households making more than $450,000 per year will rise from 15% to 20% (plus an additional 3.8% surcharge for Obamacare, to a total of 23.8%). But they won’t rise all the way to 39.6%, which they were scheduled to rise to without a Fiscal Cliff deal. Meanwhile, dividend taxes for those earning less than $450,000 a year will remain at 15% (18.8% with the surcharge, for those with income between $250,000 and $450,000). So the richest Americans have dodged a big tax bullet.

Importantly, the dividend tax deal will disproportionately help the richest Americans:

  • 47% of all dividend income is earned by the 3.8% of American households that make more than $200,000 per year (2009 tax data).
  • Households that make more than $200,000 collect a total of $70 billion of qualified dividends per year (2009). This tax change will save these households about $14 billion a year vs. the pre-deal tax rates.
  • The top 400 highest earning taxpayers collect about $10 billion a year in dividends, or $25 million apiece. This tax change will save these folks a BOAT LOAD of money: About $2 billion in total, or an average of about $5 million apiece (2009 data).

In other words, the tax deal that Congress just agreed to will raise $125 billion from increased payroll taxes from all working Americans (poor and middle class alike), while saving the richest Americans at least $20 billion in dividend taxes. (my emphasis)

So much for the delusion of “shared sacrifice.” But in case you are interested in getting your head straight after all this corporate owned mainstream media disinformation, let me provide you a few choice links for further consideration:

Anyway… As far as I am concerned, the only positive takeaway from this plutocratic “Bazinga” is that it eases the fears that my “vaguely radical” position is somehow misinformed… but obviously “I’m not crazy! My mother had me tested.”

Phony Fiscal Cliff & Neo-Feudalism

Michael Hudson is somebody we’re going to see over and over again in the opening posts and essays on this blog. His perspective on the power grab taking place world-wide is about as clear eyed as anyone is likely to see coming from a non-crank; that is, coming from a respectable professor and not the purveyor of some random blog (ahem). It is an awful lot to process, especially if you haven’t been following his line of thinking, so let me provide a little background and then summarize this latest essay – I highly recommend a close reading of the entire thing, but a few highlights will hopefully give you the gist.

Michael Hudson is part of my favorite (dare I say, vaguely radical?) economics department in the country and perhaps in the world. The University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC) is home to the people behind the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) movement in economics. It is only a small exaggeration to say that they are the “last, best hope” for reshaping society along economic lines. We’ll have plenty to say about them in the coming weeks. There are a number of contributors to MMT, and some significant nuances, but the trio of Randy Wray, Bill Black, and Michael Hudson form a kind of core nucleus, with an interesting “division of labor”: Wray is the driving force behind the MMT aspect, Black is focused on crime within high finance, and Hudson is a bit of the economic historian, decoding and reframing the twists and turns of capitalism.

Primarily – and this is a gross oversimplification of Hudson’s work – he is forcing us to radically rethink what it is we mean by a “free market.” Because of the excesses of capitalism over the past few years (decades), I had taken to challenging the existence of anything that could be called a “free market.” Ha Joon Chang had a positive impact on my thinking – explaining that markets only appear to be “free” because we have accepted all the constructs that create them: the laws, currencies, trade agreements, immigration policies, labor rules, etc, etc, and that you simply can’t have the Libertarian fantasy of a market state without government. Governments make markets, or at least shape them whether they do or do not intervene in specific areas. And we can extend this argument into all of the various ways that government needs to constrain and stabilize markets; whether “free market radicals” like it or not, the simple fact is that government has a positive role to play in the market. This had all been pretty standard liberal fare, at least until recently, and is backed by plenty of evidence. The fact is that “markets” are not stable and don’t tend towards a happy equilibrium all by themselves. The fact is that we live in a mixed economy. Any ideological attempt to “free” the markets from all government “interference” is a smokescreen for some kind of a power grab, or an economic misunderstanding. But Hudson does us one better…

Hudson’s main thesis – as far as I can tell so far (still reading his latest book and digging through some old essays) is that “classical” economics sought to “free the markets” from rent extraction. People were, in a very real sense, trying to throw off the old feudal system, and tribute taking landlords who added nothing but a privileged burden to the economy. This would come to include monopoly rent extraction as well – of various sorts. In other words, a “free market” wasn’t one free from government, but free from rent extraction. If you stop and think about that for a second, you will see just how effective our indoctrination has been; what should be obvious is indeed nearly a thought-crime. Hudson provides ample historical evidence to take this claim seriously, but the phase shift this requires in our thinking is somewhat staggering. Our present day economy is heading towards complete rent extracting satiation. The entire process of “financialization” is a process of turning any and all revenue streams into debt, of lowering taxes on land so those tax streams can become bigger mortgage payments, of shifting the tax burden from the sectors of the economy that are parasitic to the sectors of the economy that are productive. We are undergoing a transformation – perhaps in the final stages – to debt peonage and neo-feudalism fueled by a complete takeover by financial institutions and their lackeys in government. A lesser person making these claims might sound crazy, but Hudson pulls it off with significant scholarship.

Hudson begins with a brief synopsis of the situation we find ourselves in, and the “philosophy” behind it:

Wall Street lobbyists blame unemployment and the loss of industrial competitiveness on government spending and budget deficits – especially on social programs – and labor’s demand to share in the economy’s rising productivity. The myth (perhaps we should call it junk economics) is that (1) governments should not run deficits (at least, not by printing their own money), because (2) public money creation and high taxes (at lest on the wealthy) cause prices to rise. The cure for economic malaise (which they themselves have caused), is said to be less public spending, along with more tax cuts for the wealthy, who euphemize themselves as “job creators.” Demanding budget surpluses, bank lobbyists promise that banks can provide the economy with enough purchasing power to grow. Then, when this ends in crisis, they insist that austerity can squeeze out enough income to enable private-sector debts to be paid.

One of the insights crying out for a more radical interpretation of reality was that we broke the “demand engine” of the economy by squeezing labor to the point that it couldn’t purchase enough real goods and services to support a functioning economy. Instead of relying on increased production capabilities for wealth, and sharing enough of the profits to fuel demand, we created fictitious wealth through asset price inflation (a bubble economy) and drove workers into debt to cover the demand gap. What we see now is a ruling elite that is more than happy to use the governments issuing power of a sovereign currency to prop up assets that benefit the plutocrats (think of the various FED programs & Quantitative Easing), but those same ruling elites won’t even discuss using the powers of government to create jobs programs or write off citizen debts. When policy and ideology are this one-sided, there is little choice but to conclude we have been taken over by a foreign power – no tanks were needed, just debt and lobbyists and campaign donations and tax laws and deregulation…

Hudson continues:

The reality is that when banks load the economy down with debt, this leaves less to spend on domestic goods and services while driving up housing prices (and hence the cost of living) with reckless credit creation on looser lending terms. Yet on top of this debt deflation, bank lobbyists urge fiscal deflation: budget surpluses rather than pump-priming deficits. The effect is to further reduce private-sector market demand, shrinking markets and employment. Governments fall deeper into distress, and are told to sell off land and natural resources, public enterprises, and other assets. This creates a lucrative market for bank loans to finance privatization on credit. This explains why financial lobbyists back the new buyers’ right to raise the prices they charge for basic needs, creating a united front to endorse rent extraction. The effect is to enrich the financial sector owned by the 1% in ways that indebt and privatize the economy at large – individuals, business and the government itself.

One of the fundamental (radical) questions that we must answer as a society, long before being sucked into the complexities of economic theory, is “what is money?” I mean really, what is it? How is it created? What can we do with it? What are the constraints on money? A fully functioning understanding of money would radically reframe the debt / deficit / fiscal cliff debates. Things are not what they seem in corporate media land. Hudson doesn’t go after the question directly, but nonetheless illustrates the depth of our hypnosis surrounding the various worldwide “austerity” programs, and how despite raging failures abroad, this same program is coming to America:

This pro-austerity mythology aims to distract the public from asking why peacetime governments can’t simply print the money they need. Given the option of printing money instead of levying taxes, why do politicians only create new spending power for the purpose of waging war and destroying property, not to build or repair bridges, roads and other public infrastructure? Why should the government tax employees for future retirement payouts, but not Wall Street for similar user fees and financial insurance to build up a fund to pay for future bank over-lending crises? For that matter, why doesn’t the U.S. Government print the money to pay for Social Security and medical care, just as it created new debt for the $13 trillion post-2008 bank bailout?

Continuing (forgive the large block quote, but I think this will be enough to tease the entire essay):

The answer to these questions has little to do with markets, or with monetary and tax theory. Bankers claim that if they have to pay more user fees to pre-fund future bad-loan claims and deposit insurance to save the Treasury or taxpayers from being stuck with the bill, they will have to charge customers more – despite their current record profits, which seem to grab everything they can get. But they support a double standard when it comes to taxing labor.

Shifting the tax burden onto labor and industry is achieved most easily by cutting back public spending on the 99%. That is the root of the December 2012 showdown over whether to impose the anti-deficit policies proposed by the Bowles-Simpson commission of budget cutters whom President Obama appointed in 2010. Shedding crocodile tears over the government’s failure to balance the budget, banks insist that today’s 15.3% FICA wage withholding be raised – as if this will not raise the break-even cost of living and drain the consumer economy of purchasing power. Employers and their work force are told to save in advance for Social Security or other public programs. This is a disguised income tax on the bottom 99%, whose proceeds are used to reduce the budget deficit so that taxes can be cut on finance and the 1%. To paraphrase Leona Helmsley’s quip that “Only the little people pay taxes,” the post-2008 motto is that only the 99% have to suffer losses, not the 1% as debt deflation plunges real estate and stock market prices to inaugurate a Negative Equity economy while unemployment rates soar.

There is no more need to save in advance for Social Security than there is to save in advance to pay for war. Selling Treasury bonds to pay for retirees has the identical monetary and fiscal effect of selling newly printed securities. It is a charade – to shift the tax burden onto labor and industry. Governments need to provide the economy with money and credit to expand markets and employment. They do this by running budget deficits, and this can be done by creating their own money. That is what banks oppose, accusing it of leading to hyperinflation rather than help[ing] economies grow.

Their motivation for this wrong accusation is self-serving and their logic is deceptive. Bankers always have fought to block government from creating its own money – at least under normal peacetime conditions. For many centuries, government bonds were the largest and most secure investment for the financial elites that hold most savings. Investment bankers and brokers monopolized public finance, at substantial underwriting commissions. The market for stocks and corporate bonds was rife with fraud, dominated by insiders for the railroads and great trusts being organized by Wall Street, and the canal ventures organized by French and British stockbrokers.

However, there was little alternative to governments creating their own money when the costs of waging an international war far exceeded the volume of national savings or tax revenue available. This obvious need quieted the usual opposition mounted by bankers to limit the public monetary option. It shows that governments can do more under force majeur emergencies than under normal conditions. And the September 2008 financial crisis provided an opportunity for the U.S. and European governments to create new debt for bank bailouts. This turned out to be as expensive as waging a war. It was indeed a financial war. Banks already had captured the regulatory agencies to engage in reckless lending and a wave of fraud and corruption not seen since the 1920s. And now they were holding economies hostage to a break in the chain of payments if they were not bailed out for their speculative gambles, junk mortgages and fraudulent loan packaging.

The unavoidable conclusion, as the essay continues to unfold and provide details and data, is that the financial sector has taken over the economy, the country and the world – to a very large degree already, and is putting the final touches on quite the coup d’état. The fact that this is so difficult for most people to see is testament to the power of mass media, and to the sad state of disengagement from discussions about (let alone actions!) the political-economy that most Americans feel nowadays.

I have a selection of Hudson’s prepared that gets to the longer historical view of this process of financial takeover of the economy; it is the first of 14 medium to long form essays that I’ve pre-selected to explore in the beginning week or two of this blog…but this current piece is quite topical, dealing with the very misleading “fiscal cliff”, and it gets to the core understanding just as well as the (even) longer essay I had planned to start with today…

One of the reasons for writing at all about these topics is that we can not hope to resist effectively that which we don’t understand. It is my sincere hope that the selections I provide offer up an alternative view to the endless corporate mind-washing taking place related to these pressing political and economic “issues” (perhaps “crises” isn’t too strong?)… Michael Hudson is amongst 2-3 dozen significant and credible thinkers I’ve latched onto in my “vaguely radical” attempt to free my mind of obvious nonsense propaganda and start to understand how the economy works and how this goes beyond simple “technocratic” disagreements about effective policy and gets to the heart of a power grab dating back to feudal times. This is the challenge before our generation, and it is not going to yield to disinterested, disengaged, ironic-hipster pseudo-politics… The status-quo is headed in a very bad direction. It is time to up our game, and that begins by grasping the larger financial power-play that is already well-underway.

Why “Vaguely” & Why “Radical”??

The overall purpose(s) of this blog will become clear as I fill in some details and flag a few important essays that ultimately are informing my own writing contributions, but I want to take just a few minutes to explain what I mean by referring to myself and to this blog as “Vaguely Radical.”

There is a definite sense that these two words are contradictory or setup a kind of paradox; “vague” is indefinite, or poorly defined, while “radical” gets to the root of things (especially disease or rot) and is extreme, denoting a commitment to fundamental change – especially, in my case, as relates to the functioning of our “political-economy.” In some sense, there is nothing “vague” about being RADICAL and nothing “radical” about being VAGUE. Therein lies the paradox, a paradox I fully embrace and intend to work through over the course of this blog and through the books that spring from it.

Part of my vagueness is that I have only recently made the leap into anything that could be called a truly “radical” mindset, and that came about over the course of the last three years, trying to understand what went wrong in the economy, and what might be done to restore economic health (if not “prosperity”)… In an effort to hold onto the advantages of not being deeply embedded in a particular political or economic ideology (at the outset, at least), and owing to many years of meditative and “Eastern” religious exploration, I intend to “radically” hold onto my “beginners mind” as these explorations unfold. That is to say that I will do everything in my power to avoid the pre-packaged, sterile political sloganeering that passes for public discourse. That means I will not always have fully formed opinions; things may have to remain vague and uncertain from time to time. Such is the price we must pay in order to get closer to the root of our problems.

Another part of the vagueness rests in the fact that “Isms, in my opinion, are not good.” Now I veer off course from Ferris Bueller on this; it isn’t that believing in an ideology is bad, it is that our ideologies are not particularly very good right now. I don’t believe our political “brands” line up very well with reality. This is a far-reaching topic – a radical rethinking of political speech – that will be carried out bit by bit as we proceed, but even the briefest of thinking on the matter should illustrate: political words don’t really mean what they used to. For example, it is very difficult to pin down a “liberal” economic perspective; “liberal” means something very different in most places (and historically) than the (now mostly defunct) “Lefty” connotations in American politics. This leads to ideas like “neoliberalism” which is extraordinarily difficult to pin down as a political philosophy, even as it has remade the entire world economically in little more than a generation. And to try and paint “Lefty Democrats” who adhere to “Neoliberal” policies as “Socialist” is to truly render the entire discussion meaningless. On the other end of the spectrum, I find new types of socialists who agree quite readily with old time “conservatives” about various power structures (community based and such) that exist outside of markets and also outside the state (holding both in check, to a degree); associations that facilitate more robust participatory democracy. When corporate friendly democrats, adhering to fairly radical (neoliberal) “free-market” theories are branded “socialist” while old time conservatives seem to agree with new-fangled socialist thinkers, it is time to step back and reconsider what we mean by our political slogans and labels, where we are trying to go, and how we mean to get there. So, in that sense, any truly “radical” thinking in our present age should probably get used to some vagaries of political labels and ideas, at least for a little while – until we sort this mess out.

And the final reason I find my budding radicalism to only be “vaguely radical” is that most of the conclusions I have come to so far are not really aimed at a “radical” remaking of the social order, or even towards a return to an idealized, mythologized past, but rather seek to prevent (and roll-back) a radical “universal project” that is already underway, aiming simply to preserve and expand some recent institutional “compromises” while resuming what appears to be a fairly well demarcated path within US & World history. In other words, I see my “opponents” as far more radical than myself, even though they have managed to normalize their “radical” worldview over the last generation or so – to the deeply disappointing result that we see now; to the point that asking very pertinent, even common-sensical questions feels like a thought-crime (if you spend too much time immersed in corporate media).

There are a number of deep questions we must confront in order to truly grasp the nature of politics and economics – questions that go far beyond the technical models, constituencies and institutional “norms & reforms” that occupy most of our thinking about the political-economy. We have to realize that the political-economy springs from a moral vision, a worldview, a series of values, and some kind of an answer to that philosophy-101 koan: “what is the meaning of life?” This question is much easier to answer and much more concrete than we tend to believe in our post-modern, fractured age of semiotic nihilism and deep, deep narcissistic individualism. We will concern ourselves with a whole category of thoughts and thinkers from across the ages, and how they have agreed more than disagreed when answering that seemingly vexing question. But this is no mere academic exercise; the lack of a coherent vision to counter the “One Market Universal Project” is at the heart of our problem… and answering that question coherently will, eventually, help move my radicalism from vague to definite.

That sounds like a bold statement – no coherent “Lefty” vision? – so let’s finish off this post by looking at a piece on the “Rally to Restore Sanity” as the desperate eulogy of a dying urge towards politics on the left. There is nothing “vague” about Mark Ames’ radicalism. He wrote this piece back in October of 2010, and it captures the problem of a disenchanted, postmodern, hipster-ironic generation (or more) of people who mostly agree about how life should be facilitated by the political-economy, but have somehow bought into “individualism” as more effective (or is it just safer?) than actual political organizing. Not to introduce too much psychologizing at this early stage of my blog, but Adler correctly identified defense mechanisms (“safeguarding”) as defending the socially validated “Self” (self-esteem) by taking one of two directions (across numerous strategies); either going on the attack with aggression or withdrawing. The postmodern, ironic-hipsterism can serve both functions as well as any of the strategies Adler identified. There is the in-your-face hipster accusation that you are uncool for caring (caring is creepy) and also the defensive withdrawal of, like, “whatever, bro…” When it comes to the political economy, more than an entire generation has made a secular religion of safeguarding behavior and declared themselves awakened. Yet being present has always meant taking the middle-path between aggression and withdrawal – risking the “shameful lameness of reality” and not simply finding a socially acceptable defense mechanism to elevate to the status of (pseudo) enlightenment.

A century-old ideological movement, Liberalism: once devoted to impossible causes like ending racism and inequality, empowering the powerless, fighting against militarism, and all that silly hippie shit—now it’s been reduced to besting the other side at one-liners…and to the Liberals’ credit, they’re clearly on top. Sure there are a lot of problems out there, a lot of pressing needs—but the main thing is, the Liberals don’t look nearly as stupid as the other guys do. And if you don’t know how important that is to this generation, then you won’t understand what’s so wrong and so deeply depressing about the Jon Stewart Rally to Restore Sanity.

As a committed, “no bullshit lefty,” this was clearly too much for Ames to endure. Lamenting the death of something important in political life, he continued:

It’s an anti-rally, a kind of mass concession speech without the speech–some kind of sick funeral party  for Liberalism, in which Liberals are led, at last, by a clown. Not a figurative clown, but by a clown–and Liberals are sure that this somehow makes them smarter and less lame–and indeed, they are less lame, because they are not taking themselves too seriously, which is something they’re very, very proud of. All great political struggles and ideological advances, all great human rights achievements were won by clown-led crowds of people who don’t take themselves too seriously, duh! That’s why they’re following a clown like Stewart, whose entire political program comes down to this: not being stupid, the way the other guys are stupid–or when being stupid, only stupid in a self-consciously stupid way, which is to say, not stupid. That’s it, that’s all this is about: Not to protest wars or oligarchical theft or declining health care or crushing debt or a corrupt political system or imperial decay—nope, the only thing that motivates Liberals to gather in the their thousands is the chance to celebrate their own lack of stupidity! Woo-hoo!

Ames goes on to pillory South Park for being the libertarian Daily Show, or else the Daily Show for being the liberal South Park, and if I am honest for a second, it becomes perfectly clear that there is something here that really made me uncomfortable with both of those mockumentary staples of my “extended youth”… Both seemed to be our way of engaging the political by saying we’d hold ourselves humorously aloof, which is non-engagement masquerading as superiority, and that is practically the word-for-word definition of “safeguarding behavior.” Is the high culture of this generation just one big defense mechanism? How sad would that be?

It was this same lack of ironic self-awareness (or rather, this absence of any sort of mockery-avoidance technology) that led my generation to pillory the hippies and progressives–that’s why we were South Park Republicans before we were Daily Show Democrats: because back then, standing for liberal values meant something, and that made you look lame. Only now, when Liberal ideals have vanished into mythology and all they stand for is “not as crazy or stupid as Republicans” is it safe to camp out with the Democrats. They put nothing on the line ideologically, which perfectly jibes with this generation’s highest value. And that makes it perfectly safe to go to something like a large political rally like Stewart’s—you side with a hollow movement stripped of ideology or purpose, and then you gather to celebrate your own hollowness at a rally whose one promise is “You won’t open yourself up to mockery if you attend this rally” and whose goal is to show how not-stupid “we” are compared to the mockable activists on both the right and the left..

The entire piece is a worthwhile reality check for “lefty liberals,” and I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t already seen it, but his final, numbered, 4 points are worth reiterating – the first two in their entirety:

1. Collective action is the only possible way to change shit. Large numbers of collectivized nobodies rallying to demand what they want–a better cut of the pie, and a better world to live in. It’s the only thing that power-elites fear and the only way to get them to negotiate. There must be thousands of billionaires’ unions—whether the Chamber of Commerce or the gazillions of libertarian networks—and the only thing they hope and dream about and invest their effort into is planting a seed into your vain Gen-X brain that makes you think it’s lame to collectivize. That’s it, that’s the only thing they care about while they’re plundering away. You’ll have to stomach being around people who are lame, and who say lame things, and you’ll feel lame—so you’ll have to decide which is lamer: the fear of being lame, or forming an alliance with people lamer than you in order to struggle against people far meaner, far more greedy and destructive than the lame people you hate—people who have no qualms about being lame when they collectivize, so long as they destroy you and grab everything they want. Tough choice, I know.

2. The problem with the Left wasn’t that they were too fixated on proving they were right, or that they didn’t make enough noise before the war about the lies that led us into that war…the problem is that the Left doesn’t stand for anything Big because it’s not guided by a vision or an Ideal. What does the Left stand for? Let me suggest a few things in people’s own personal interests in these decaying times that the Left should stand for: first, people need money. Then if they have money, they need Life. Then they might be interested in “ideals” set out in the contract that this country is founded on. Ever read the preamble to the Constitution? There’s nothing about private property there and self-interest. Nothing at all about that. It’s a contract whose purpose is clearly spelled out, and it’s a purpose that’s the very opposite of the purpose driving Stewart’s rally, or the purpose driving the libertarian ideology so dominant over the past few generations. This country, by contract, was founded in order to strive for a “more Perfect Union”—that’s “union,” as in the pairing of the words “perfect” and “union”—not sovereign, not states, not local, not selfish, but “union.” And that other purpose at the end of the Constitution’s contractual obligations: promote the “General Welfare.” That means “welfare.” Not “everyone for himself” but “General Welfare.” That’s what it is to be American: to strive to form the most perfect union with each other, and to promote everyone’s general betterment. That’s it. The definition of an American patriot is anyone promoting the General Welfare of every single American, and anyone helping to form the most perfect Union—that’s “union”, repeat, “Union” you dumb fucks. Now, our problem is that there are a lot of people in this country who have dedicated their entire lives to subverting the stated purpose of this country. We must be prepared to identify those who disrupt and sabotage our national purpose of creating this “more perfect union” identifying those who sabotage our national goal of “promoting the General Welfare”—and calling them by their name: traitors. You who strive to form this Perfect Union and promote General Welfare—You are Patriots.

His point #3 is to basically call out the Libertarians on their nonsense (which we will do in detail, in due course). Point #4 quotes Blade Runner, pointing to the fact that if we do not get our acts together and remember that the political-economy is a collective enterprise that no amount of humor or smug irony can exclude us from, “Then we’re stupid, and we’ll die.”