In a previous post, I discussed the likelihood that the Fast-Track bill, if it passed the House, would need to return to the Senate again to align the different bills produced by the two Houses. I focused on the importance of Fast-Track/TPP opponents preparing for that return by building the opposition into a movement exerting continuous pressure on Senators to expand the size of the opposition to the bill in both parties.
I also pointed out that an emerging movement should be emphasizing the governance impact of Fast-Track/TPP on national, state, and local sovereignty, separation of powers, consent of the governed and democracy, more than the many other TPP issues that have emerged. In my view, the governance issues are the winning issues against the Fast-Track/TPP initiative for a number of reasons.
This is so because they cut against the beliefs that 1) the people, ought in the final analysis to rule; 2) the independence of the United States is, above all, to be treasured and ought not to be subordinated to corporations and big money; and 3) the United States is an exceptional nation, in part because its governance institutions, with all their warts are still superior to all others on earth. Read more about TPP: Call 'Em Out In the House, Now!
The apt “OILigarchy’”coinage belongs to Jacqueline Marcus in “When It Comes to Expanding the US Oil Empire, Expect Chaos in Ukraine and Nigeria.” She writes:
While climate change escalates to an emergency crisis, a growing national security concern, the US OILigarchy-government is on a "search and seize mission" for the very product that is obliterating our earth: Polluting Oil.
Matt Stoller believes that the recent pre-publication release of a study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page doesn't support the idea that the United States is an oligarchy yet. He says:
A lot of people are misreading this Princeton study on the political influence of the wealthy and business groups versus ordinary citizens. The study does not say that the US is an oligarchy, wherein the wealthy control politics with an iron fist. If it were, then things like Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, veterans programs, housing finance programs, etc wouldn’t exist.
What the study actually says is that American voters are disorganized and their individualized preferences don’t matter unless voters group themselves into mass membership organizations. Then, if people belong to mass membership organizations, their preferences do matter, but less so than business groups and the wealthy.
Well, it's true that Gilens and Page never say that United States is an oligarchy, and perhaps it's also true that they don't believe it. But they do say this: Read more about Are We An Oligarchy Yet?
Recently, I've been writing about oligarchs advocating for entitlement cuts and austerity. I've discussed attacks on entitlement benefits for the elderly from Abby Huntsman (of MSNBC's The Cycle) and Catherine Rampell (a Washington Post columnist), both the children of well-off individuals. These posts have come in the context of the English language release of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and the more recent pre-publication release of a study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page using quantitative methods and empirical data to explore the question of whether the US is an oligarchy or a majoritarian democracy. They conclude:
”What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
With this as a backdrop, today I want to de-construct a recent statement by Michael A. Peterson, President and COO, of one of the centers of American oligarchy, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF), and the son of the multi-billionaire Peter G. Peterson, commenting on the CBO's Report earlier this month, on its updated budget projections for 2014 - 2024. Read more about Peterson/CBO Beat for Austerity Goes On!
All of a sudden MSNBC cable commentators are talking about plutocracy and oligarchy. Surprisingly, the first occurrence of this I'm aware of was Chuck Todd, reacting on his Daily Rundown show to the spectacle of Republican candidates traveling to Vegas to seek funding from Sheldon Adelson and his group of hugely wealthy Jewish Republican donors. Todd began to explore the implications of that event. He seemed exercised, and more than the slightest bit upset, about its meaning for Democracy and used the words plutocracy and oligarchy. Andrea Mitchell also discussed it later and she, too, registered apparent dismay, while using the “p” and “o” words.
Chris Hayes has been on leave during this period, so we haven't heard from him about this. But Chris Matthews, the “oh so very slightly left-of-center insider” has been making very unfriendly noises about Adelson, the Kochs, and the Supremes, culminating today (April 3rd) with nasty references to plutocrats, oligarchs, and candidates, kissing oligarchs somewhere or other, on both his program and Al Sharpton's. Read more about Is the MSM Blackout on Inequality, Plutocracy, and Oligarchy Ending?
The Law is the true embodiment
Of everything that's excellent.
It has no kind of fault or flaw,
And I, my Lords, embody the Law.
--The Lord Chancellor, Iolanthe, Gilbert and Sullivan
We can look at the foreclosure crisis as the pre-emininent law enforcement crisis of our time: Elite impunity for crimes committed and still being committed by lenders and servicers (“banksters”) on a massive scale. We can also look the foreclosure crsis as an issue of jurisprudence, where a revolutionary oligarchy seeks to change the nature of law itself.
The claim of Austrian school economists that "there is no macroeconomics" because the political-economic system at the macro level is explainable in terms of the aggregated attributes and activities of political-economic agents at the micro-level of that system is false, silly, and ignores the findings of many other sciences! That's because macro-level behavior includes structural and holistic properties of these systems that are not explainable by individual level phenomena or aggregations of them. Read more about Is there Macroeconomics?
One of the major bastions of the new financial and corporate oligarchies that have emerged and entrenched themselves the past four or five decades is an international financial system that has usurped many of the powers of the sovereign nation state. Ironically, many nation states are in fact mere tools in the hands of these new oligarchies. These nation states function as tax havens, and there is an interesting new book on the subject, Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World by Nicholas Shaxson. It has been reviewed by David Runciman in the London Review of Books. Read more about Offshore tax havens and the rise of new oligarchies
And a heavily padded resume.
The more I learn about this, the more offended I become and the more opposed I am to the thought of handing Caroline Kennedy a senate seat as if it were her birthright.
We are told by those who know (and whose word should not be questioned) that she deserves this position because of critical and unique qualities that only she possesses -- prestige, name-recognition, respect, and fundraising prowess -- not to mention the beneficence of Teddy Kennedy. We are to believe that the patina of Camelot will somehow arrest the ambition and needs of ninety-nine other senators in deference to the interests of New York. Read more about The Divine Right of Kennedys