Matt Stoller

Matt Stoller

Peter Coyote

Okay, a preface.

Peter Coyote, who first attracted my attention when he signed a “vote Democratic and keep Nader out of it” letter back in 2004, has come up with a sally in Salon against Matt Stoller’s piece, itself titled “The Progressive Case Against Obama.” Coyote’s piece is titled “The Progressive Case For Obama.”

Here I am going to proceed in a point-by-point fashion. The meat of my argument is that Coyote mis-states the economic character of the moment, right now, and that correcting this mis-statement will show the supreme unimportance of a vote for Obama.

Now the meat of my argument.

At the beginning of Coyote’s argument are some meaningful recognitions that much of Stoller’s case is a good one. Then Coyote offers some historical context to the situation of the present day, the one in which we find ourselves:

Like frogs resting comfortably in gradually heating water, we are just now apparently noticing how close to boiling our environment is. While Democrats have concentrated on a plethora of issues, the corporatists have worked unremittingly to gain power over the entire financial sector of the Nation.

Much of this history takes its cue from the Powell memo, in which a “corporate takeover of democracy” is outlined. Myself, I don’t really see why we can’t argue that corporations have dominated American democracy from the beginning. Was there supposedly some point in American history when the people as a whole dominated the Federal government? How are the corporations supposed to “take over” government if they’re already in control of it?

Myself, I don’t think that the Powell memo substitutes for a proper history of neoiliberalism. After World War II and before 1971, the elite consensus on economic policy included a willingness to concede improvements in the living standards of the masses, and specifically of an anointed “middle class” trained to consume, in order to keep the economy invested in robust growth. This was the golden age of capitalism.

After 1973, however, the elites reversed course, and decided that the world of finance could be “gamed” to insure profits and growth for the corporate economy, without any assurance at all that the masses would benefit. The world economy was “financialized” to increase the power of corporations to manipulate the world economy for their own profit.

The upheavals of the 1970s were the background for the turnaround in elite attitudes. The class compromise that formed the basis of 1960s prosperity was replaced by an emergent “neoconservative” elite attitude of class warfare. This was planned out at meetings of the Trilateral Commission (begun in 1973) and instigated by the Reagan administration and successive administrations thereafter. If Matt Stoller is correct, the Obama administration constitutes a new phase in the class warfare strategy, in which government continually subsidizes corporate elites while imposing austerity on the rest of us.

Oxdown Diaries

Oxdown Diaries