Alex Pareene offers up some great strategic advise for Democrats in DC:

If Democrats want to get the big pundits on their side, they should pull a Boehner and just name whatever it is they’re trying to pass “The Simpson Plan.” That should be the name they use when they reintroduce card-check. And cap-and-trade. Planned Parenthood should rename itself “The Simpson-Bowles Planned Parenthood” and then no one will ever again try to defund it, I promise.

The funniest part of this is that Pareene thinks Democrats would introduce legislation to provide any sort of increase in power for America’s workers.

Celebrating Nonsense

Charles Pierce on today’s Supreme Court rulings and the larger American zeitgeist:

We live in the unreality of the moment now. We have tolerated — nay, celebrated — nonsense in our public life for so many years that we are now both its victims and its accomplices. We have detached ourselves from the duties of self-government to the point where the government itself has detached itself from our lives, partly because of the deliberate acts of venal and corrupt men, and partly because we listened to those venal and corrupt men and threw it away ourselves. We think ourselves free when, actually, we have bound ourselves in shackles of apathy and cynicism and childish fantasy. We have accepted fiction as fact because it sells. We are accessorial to the murder of truth.

Against corruption

I actually agree with this:

We need equality under the law. From now on, laws that apply to the private sector must apply to Congress, including whistleblower, conflict-of-interest and insider-trading laws. Trading on nonpublic government information should be illegal both for those who pass on the information and those who trade on it. (This should close the loophole of the blind trusts that aren’t really blind because they’re managed by family members or friends.)

No more sweetheart land deals with campaign contributors. No gifts of IPO shares. No trading of stocks related to committee assignments. No earmarks where the congressman receives a direct benefit. No accepting campaign contributions while Congress is in session. No lobbyists as family members, and no transitioning into a lobbying career after leaving office. No more revolving door, ever.

This call for real reform must transcend political parties. The grass-roots movements of the right and the left should embrace this. The tea party’s mission has always been opposition to waste and crony capitalism, and the Occupy protesters must realize that Washington politicians have been “Occupying Wall Street” long before anyone pitched a tent in Zuccotti Park.

Remarkably, this is coming from Sarah Palin in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

I do think there’s opportunity for the populist movements of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party to come together and oppose government corruption and the two-tiered justice system. Of course in this instance by Tea Party, I mean the grassroots base and not the Koch Brothers or Dick Armey front groups used to support any old Republican.

Of course, Palin’s complaints against government corruption would be much more believable if she hadn’t used her powers as governor to fire or intimidate personal enemies. Or if she and her staff didn’t obstruct FOIA requests by using personal email accounts for state business. Or if she didn’t pay herself to live at home while flying her children around the country on the Alaskan taxpayers’ dime. As an Alaskan taxpayer while Palin was governor, I’m not going to forget her own corruption and her own use of public coffers for personal enrichment. In short, the woman is a hypocrite, but what she’s saying today isn’t wrong, she just has no standing to make the argument against corruption.

Dem Sen. Kerry stops fundraising while on Super Congress

Originally posted at AMERICAblog

A rare moment of political integrity emerges from the Super Congress process, thanks to Senator John Kerry:

“I’m not meeting with a lot of lobbyists; I’m meeting with people I choose to meet with, who can inform me, assist in the process of crunching numbers and dealing with consequences, and so forth,” Kerry told the Globe last week in his first extensive interview about his committee membership.

“I will not fund-raise; I will raise no money,” the senator told the Globe. “I’m not raising any money while the committee is working.”

Asked why, Kerry said: “Because I don’t want people to think that I’m being leveraged by contributions. I just don’t want want the appearance of money being associated with anything I do on this.”

The Super Committee became a lobbyist free-for-all the moment it was formed, with industries large and small throwing millions of dollars towards getting their views heard by members of the Super Congress. That includes lots of fundraising events and it is every bit as slimy as it sounds. Good for John Kerry.

Of course, we will have to wait and see if the lack of lobbyist meetings and big dollar fundraisers nets a more progressive result from Senator Kerry and the committee as a whole. But at least on paper, this is a positive step.

A Republican insider takes on both parties

Via John Aravosis, this piece at Truthout by Mike Lofgren, a thirty year veteran Republican staffer, is an interesting read. Lofgren claims he resigned recently after watching the GOP get taken over by lunatics (his word) like Michele Bachmann, Allen West, Patrick McHenry and Steve King.

This passage stands out:

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

Lofgren astutely notes the media’s complicity in this sabotage, through the devolution of journalism from a noble profession practiced by talented individuals to a medium defined by false equivalencies and “he said, she said” reporting.

While Lofgren’s critique of his own party is devastating, his analysis of the failings of the modern Democratic Party is also insightful.

What do the Democrats offer these people? Essentially nothing. Democratic Leadership Council-style “centrist” Democrats were among the biggest promoters of disastrous trade deals in the 1990s that outsourced jobs abroad: NAFTA, World Trade Organization, permanent most-favored-nation status for China. At the same time, the identity politics/lifestyle wing of the Democratic Party was seen as a too illegal immigrant-friendly by downscaled and outsourced whites.

While Democrats temporized, or even dismissed the fears of the white working class as racist or nativist, Republicans went to work. To be sure, the business wing of the Republican Party consists of the most energetic outsourcers, wage cutters and hirers of sub-minimum wage immigrant labor to be found anywhere on the globe. But the faux-populist wing of the party, knowing the mental compartmentalization that occurs in most low-information voters, played on the fears of that same white working class to focus their anger on scapegoats that do no damage to corporations’ bottom lines: instead of raising the minimum wage, let’s build a wall on the Southern border (then hire a defense contractor to incompetently manage it). Instead of predatory bankers, it’s evil Muslims. Or evil gays. Or evil abortionists.

How do they manage to do this? Because Democrats ceded the field. Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? – can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative “Obamacare” won out. Contrast that with the Republicans’ Patriot Act. You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn’t the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?

You know that Social Security and Medicare are in jeopardy when even Democrats refer to them as entitlements. “Entitlement” has a negative sound in colloquial English: somebody who is “entitled” selfishly claims something he doesn’t really deserve. Why not call them “earned benefits,” which is what they are because we all contribute payroll taxes to fund them? That would never occur to the Democrats. Republicans don’t make that mistake; they are relentlessly on message: it is never the “estate tax,” it is the “death tax.

Lofgren actually mistakes inept messaging with desired political outcomes, while simultaneously missing the real point of the DLC-made Democratic Party’s free trade policies. Give voters too much passion from the government as a source of job creation and health care, and they’re bound to want more. But that’s not what the corporatists in the right of the Democratic Party want, so they don’t push for it. Obama and many conservative Democrats are pushing for cuts to the Big Three social support programs. They don’t want there to be an estate tax, because they don ‘t want their rich donors to be taxed. So when Lofgren writes, “The GOP cares solely and exclusively about its rich contributors,” it’s also the case that the same could be said for many, many conservative Democrats.

Lofgren’s piece shows him as someone who is outraged by what is happening in an America where one of two political parties is hell-bent on destroying government. But his analysis of the other party is centered around political cravenness, giving no real attention to the rightward shift of controlling Democratic ideology. In the end the problems don’t necessarily arise from one party dashing to the right, but the other moving along with it. In that sense, no choice is preserved for voters and thus the people who make the move to shift to the frame of acceptable debate are the ones who win out over time.

Lofgren spent 28 years working on at the House and Senate Budget Committees. I’m sure he has seen an evolution in how the Democratic Party operated and how the increased influence of first the DLC and then Third Way shifted the Democrats to the right, while a similar shift was ongoing in his party. It would be interesting to see him write about that narrative, now that he’s established himself as a smart, credible critic of government and politics in the 21st century.

Government isn’t broken

In an op-ed in the Nashua Telegraph, Daniel Weeks writes:

Our problem today is not a broken government but a beholden one: government is more beholden to special-interest shareholders who fund campaigns than it is to ordinary voters. Like any sound investor, the funders seek nothing more and nothing less than a handsome return – deficits be darned – in the form of tax breaks, subsidies and government contracts.

This is pretty much what I’ve been saying for a long time now. The same thing could be said about the economy as well as the government.