Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The New Yorker says the growing populist insurgency is contradictory and incoherent, but is it really?

The Populism Problem
(The New Yorker) -- by James Surowiecki --

It’s been the political equivalent of an intervention: in recent weeks, Democrats have been bombarded with advice about how they should reinvent their economic agenda. The electorate, we hear, wants Barack Obama to be more of an economic populist but less of an ambitious reformer. He has to aggressively create jobs but also be less spendthrift. This advice may be contradictory, but then so are the economic opinions of the many angry voters who are animating what’s being called the new populism. Whereas the economic populism of the eighteen-nineties and the right-wing cultural populism of recent years represented reasonably coherent ideologies, this new populism has stitched together incompatible concerns and goals into one “I’m mad as hell” quilt. The people may have spoken. It’s just not clear that they’re making any sense.

One view of this new populist uprising is that it’s about Main Street versus Wall Street, and is grounded in voters’ fury at the bailout of irresponsible bankers. But that’s too simple. While the banks are public enemy No. 1, there’s a much wider-ranging anger out there, a sense that everyone except the ordinary middle-class person is getting some sort of handout. Big Business, Big Government, and Big Labor: voters don’t seem to like any of them. The bailout of the auto industry, after all, was as unpopular as the bailout of the banks, even though it was much tougher on the companies (G.M. and Chrysler went bankrupt; shareholders were wiped out, and C.E.O.s pushed out), and even though the biggest beneficiaries of the deal were ordinary autoworkers. You might have expected a deal that helped workers keep their jobs to play well in a country spooked by ballooning unemployment. Yet most voters hated it.

Similarly, the failure of free markets during the financial crisis might have led people to think that the government should be more involved in the economy. Instead, the percentage of Americans who think government is trying to do too much is higher than it’s been since the late nineties...MORE...LINK
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Chris Moore comments:

There really is not so much of a paradox and contradiction in the anger and message that this populist insurgency is sending, as the author of this piece continues to claim. Before over thinking the issue and muddying the waters (or trying to find a way to somehow both discredit the populist insurgency and square it with the vanilla prescriptions of the corrupt Establishment that butters his own bread) Surowiecki really nailed the focus of the Tea Partiers disdain in "Big Business, Big Government, and Big Labor" -- particularly the government unions that are plundering the public coffers to slather generous pay packages, benefits, and retirement plans all over themselves.

The populist insurgency recognizes (if only instinctively) that all of this, plus Corporatism, plus the unnecessary Big Wars and war profiteering, plus cultural Marxism's war on traditional America, are simply inconsistent with the continued economic and cultural solvency of the U.S., and barring abrupt and radical change of direction, the bottom is going to fall out from under everything sooner rather than later.

Here were some off-the-top-of-my-head prescriptions that I jotted down on how the nation could turn things around from a previous post:
We need to control our borders so the insane money worshippers and Left-Right globalization advocates can't continue to drive down the price of labor with mass immigration; we need to dismantle the vast government bureaucracies and government unions sponging up so much of the economy and discouraging entrepreneurs, and dumbing down the population with the failing public school system; we need school vouchers redeemable at private schools, and to encourage the opening of more and more private schools; we need to encourage Christianity instead of allowing Hollywood, commercialism, and cultural Marxism to bludgeon it; we need to go into trust busting mode and dismantle many of the huge, soulless, monopolistic corporations and banks run by unpatriotic internationalists and corporatists in order to spur competition and stimulate innovation and entrepreneurialism; we need to dismantle the satanic military-industrial, war-profiteering complex which has encouraged the government's printing of monopoly money in the false and evil belief that it could coerce the world into playing by the U.S. economic rules and maintain the petro-dollar and the dollar as the world's reserve currency at the point of a gun indefinitely; the existence of the military-industrial, war-profiteering-complex has also encouraged arbitrary and unnecessary wars that have helped destroy our economy, our reputation, and our morality, and has encouraged the delusions of grandeur of our Washington politicians, many of whom are already megalomaniacs and sociopaths; we need to elect politicians who will enforce the Constitution, and cull the laws of the land down to the essentials, which they then enforce competently and tenaciously; we need to dismantle the K Street lobbying complex in general, and the Israel lobby in particular, which encourages many of the warmongering abuses mentioned above; we need to encourage Zionists to immigrate to Israel, which is where their primary loyalties lie anyway; we need to get Israel off of American welfare, and other countries around the world as well, with any ensuing vacuum being temporarily filled by American NGO's; we need to shape up the U.N., and turn it into a real peace-keeping force, with the world deciding collectively to which hot spots and emergencies it should be deployed, but only under strict and limited circumstances (the never-ending conflict and perpetual sore spot between Israel and environs, for example, comes to mind).
Of course, the corrupt Establishment (and even certain elements of the Tea Party movement) don't want to hear a lot of the items on this list at all, let alone implement them.

But the fact that corrupted status-quo'ers prefer to put their heads in the sand than implement the initiatives that will turn the country around is something very different than the claim that the populist anger and grievance is incoherent and insatiable, which is what Surowiecki seems to want his readers to believe in this piece.

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