Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Monday, March 23, 2009


The point is not that we cannot criticize the President. The point is that if you want criticism to have progressive purchase you need always to criticize what is wrong in a way that does maximum pain to those who are best positioned to frustrate your aims while limiting the damage to those who are best positioned to facilitate your aims.

Yes, the Administration's handling of the catastrophic consummation of neoliberal corporate-financialization of the economy is bad. It's worse than bad. Saying so isn't particularly insightful, which isn't to suggest that not saying so is more insightful, but saying so in a way that makes bad things worse is even less insightful.

Geithner's head on a platter will do less good than you probably feel it would in this moment (that is not to deny that it might do some good).

Progressive people need to remember
[1] that re-regulation of the idiotically perniciously de-regulated (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, Commodity Futures Modernization Act, anyone?) corporate-militarist crony capitalist practices is a puzzle-piece actually, explicitly, very publicly on offer, do-ably on offer, supported by people in power with a fight on their hands but a fight they are (or were) equal to with the support of a popular President and spunky Democratic Congressional majorities,

[2] that re-materialization through green initiatives of the idiotically perniciously financialized economy is a puzzle-piece actually on offer, same sort of fight, same sort of stakes,

[3] that re-capture of three decades of idiotic pernicious "elite" wealth capture via welfare for the rich and "Defense" spending takes less time than you might think once you make the tax (including capital gains) code more progressive, and that is a puzzle-piece actually on offer,

[4] that re-instatement of organized labor as countervailing power (does anybody remember G.K. Galbraith?) through EFCA and other federal orders sympathetic to organized labor of the idiotic pernicious corporate-elitist tilt of the Nixon-Reagan (the frowning and smiling faces of the cultural politics of racist resentment that sold the bloody implementation of the corporate-militarist aka neoliberal/neoconservative New World Order) generational epoch is a puzzle-piece actually on offer,

and that confusing the appalling puzzle piece that is AIG or the Banksters more generally for the whole puzzle skews your sense of the terrain in a way that makes you less likely to get what you want if you are a progressive and more likely to pile on with people you hate who want to keep you from getting the things you actually want.

When Obama Administration figures like Geithner or somewhat sympathetic figures like Brad Delong describe things as "risky and distressed but probably fundamentally undervalued assets" which Atrios then describes as "hoping to find ponies in the shitpile," of course Atrios is right in a significant sense, but I do think he is wrong to think that this means Geithner or Delong are necessarily lying or deluded or stealth neocons replaying the nightmare of Bush WMD lies in the leadup to the Iraq debacle or whatever nightmare flashback is making so much of the progressive blogosphere lose its wits in this moment (a disgusting moment, to be sure, losing its lunch is perfectly appropriate).

Did people who voted for Obama really expect him to go Tyler Durden and dynamite the skyscrapers with all the Wall Street trough-feeders in them? Did people expect him to announce some "soak the rich" plan in his inaugural address? What dream world were you inhabiting?

What the Obama Administration giveth they also can taketh away, and every poison pill he hands out gives him that much more breathing space to move the other puzzle pieces into place. (And before you start squawking about how I am attributing "secret plans" and "genius moves" onto Obama here -- first, endlessly reiterated public utterances and plans aren't "secret" in any available sense of the word, and, second, what apparently look to you like "genius moves" look to me like precisely appropriate and expected "competence" and "intelligence" from a President, so maybe the problem is that you are a stupid person, or maybe you are exhibiting the bigotry of lowered expectations in the aftermath of the Killer Clown administration, who knows.)

The corporatists are idiotically cooing, thinking they've gotten away with the cookie from the cookie jar, the stock exchange is up (indicating nothing fundamental about the real economy or the real lives of real people coping with their problems in the real world any more than it ever does, but nicely shutting up a lot of greedy brainless assholes who fancy themselves the Masters of the Universe who do no small amount of mischief when they aren't busy congratulating themselves), the Republicans have lost their one talking point (not that they had any right to it, but still), and Obama is one day closer to EFCA, and Congressional progressives are wielding populist outrage like a mallot to hammer through re-regulation, and the budget's spending on green rematerialization of the economy and healthcare provisions to begin to help de-precarize the long-exploited working people of America is moving ever onward, and more progressive taxation is waiting in the wings to recoup some of this largesse that afforded Obama the time to implement the larger structural elements of a recovery that isn't premised on another bubble for once.

I don't like Geithner, I hate Summers, I don't think center-left Obama is as reliable a progressive populist as any number of completely unelectable people not on offer might have been, I suspect Krugman's prescriptions are economically incomparably more sound than the ones we're getting, and I suspect that his political prescriptions weren't so bad either, though the latter is less certain and in any case aren't in the cards so do what you can with what you have. Matt Taibbi's ubiquitous The Big Takeover provides one among an innumerable number of left "big picture" takes that render themselves more or less useless because they all contain somewhere or other the line with which he himself actually begins his piece: "It's over -— we're officially, royally fucked." Any big picture that contains no pragmatically facilitative big picture is just another drain on your time and imagination and energy that won't do any of you any good at all. Yeah, yeah, I know all that shit, too. We all know all that shit. Do something about it or get out of the way.

Channel the rage into re-regulation of the deregulated economy, green re-materialization of the financialized logo-ized "economy," re-capture of crony-capitalist wealth capture through progressive taxation, de-precarization of precarious workers through extension of public healthcare and public education. These are actual battles moving onto the actual legislative and policy terrain.

Support the President who supports you in these struggles, help him don't undermine him. Insist he live up to your image of what he can be, and when he fails you as he will, insist again on the next thing. Support progressive congresscritters who are fighting for more progressive social measures than center-left rather than strong-left Obama ever would, but which center-left Obama will not veto.

Fight for what you want and stop whining, and assuming the worst, and endlessly playing out your paranoid fantasies like history is all about you.

If something you say makes a Movement Republican smile, stop saying it. Even if it is true. Find a different way of saying what is true and important in it that doesn't make them smile.

Get smarter. Get used to not getting what you want in a world where people disagree with you for dumb reasons. Keep on fighting. Grow the fuck up.


Anonymous said...

I do think he is wrong to think that this means Geithner or Delong are necessarily lying or deluded or stealth neocons replaying the nightmare of Bush WMD lies in the leadup to the Iraq debacle

Why the heck not?!?

Dale Carrico said...

Is that the only line you read in the post? Because it is possible (even if wrong) to think there are more pieces moving than the one's premised on that facile diagnosis. You really think Brad Delong is lying or deluded or a stealth neocon rather than just mistaken on this (if he is), declaring assets "undervalued" from a vantage that differs from yours in ways that can be accounted for by something other than his being evil or stupid, something like, uh, let's see, maybe a sense of how they might be valued if Obama is able to pull off an economic recovery through something more like his present course than you (possibly rightly) think he can? Even if I sympathize with those who are most upset, I strongly disapprove of the way this is being framed as some analogue to the blatancy of the WMD lies or comparable Bush Administration in(s)anities, and I disapprove even more strongly the way all this framing is feeding discourse that disempowers and empowers all the wrong people.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure even the most hysterical left-wing criticisms could empower the Republican Party whose brand is in the toilet. However, I think they might feed cynicism over the two-party system and empower "independent populist" demagogues like Lou Dobbs to run for office and possibly win.

Dale Carrico said...

Or feed worse than useless Third Party nonsense more generally -- that is to say, useless unless preceded by the actual hard work of election reform like public financing of campaigns and introduction of instant-runoff voting without which the two party system is the only game in town for real however righteous one's critiques of it may be.