Jesse Jackson on poverty

Jackson recently wrote:

Public policy matters. We could eliminate poverty in this country with sensible policy. Raise the minimum wage to a living wage; empower workers to organize and negotiate a fair share of the profits they help to produce. Guarantee affordable health care for all. Provide affordable housing for all. Provide high-quality pre-K and quality education for all. Add a jobs guarantee, so that instead of forcing workers onto unemployment when the economy slows or their company goes belly up, they can move to a public job doing work that is necessary — from retrofitting buildings for solar heating to caring for our public parks to providing care for the elderly and more.

Let’s not fool ourselves. America has millions of people in poverty because Americans choose not to demand the policies that would lift them out of poverty. Because corporate CEOs choose profits and bonuses over fair pay for their workers. Because small-minded legislators are more responsive to those who pay for their party than those who are in need.

Poverty is an artefact of second nature. It involves intentions and choices. It is not inevitable.

Quote of the day

Alexander Keyssar wrote (2000 and 2009, xxi):

The history of suffrage in the United States was…shaped by forces that opposed or resisted a broader franchise, forces that at times succeeded in contracting the right to vote and often serviced to retard its expansion. Once again, most of these forces or factors have long been recognized: racist and sexist beliefs and attitudes, ethnic antagonisms, partisan interests, and political theories and ideological convictions that linked the health of the state to a narrow franchise.

One important factor, however, has received little or no attention: class tension. The concept of class has long carried heavy ideological freight and at times has been the great unspoken word in America’s officially classless society….A wide-angle look at the full span of suffrage history — considering all restrictions on voting rights throughout the nation — strongly suggests that class relations and apprehensions constituted the single most important obstacle to universal suffrage in the United States from the late eighteenth to the 1960s.

Voting and the ‘rule by law’

The PEI report for 2018 concluded:

The issue of voter suppression has been a major issue for debate where some new laws, focusing on voter identification and polling facilities, can be seen as suppressing the right of legitimate citizen voters to participate. Republican commentators, on the other hand, respond that election laws are needed to eliminate the risks of voter fraud. Several reforms to state electoral laws were litigated in the run up to the 2018 campaign. The score on ‘election laws’ was lowest in Wisconsin and Georgia. The legal framework was seen by experts as the second-worst aspect of election conduct over all in the US, after gerrymandered district boundaries (p. 10).

I use the term ‘rule by law’ to refer to laws enacted and enforced that lack democratic legitimacy and that also violate ‘rule of law norms.’ In the case of the restrictive electoral laws favored by some in the Republican Party, but not just members of that party, the goal is to remove actual and potential electoral challenges to Republican candidates. The goal, when achieved in practice, undermines the legitimacy provided by any election touched by such laws. Electoral legitimacy is diminished or eliminated because, as employed, these rules exclude some Americans from electoral participation because of the ascriptive categories directly and indirectly applied to them, categories such as race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, etc. and because apportionment schemes violate the one person, one vote rule and thus the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Thus, not only do these laws diminish the integrity of such elections, they also necessarily generate a legitimacy deficit for the governments thus elected. It follows that the laws cease to be artefacts produced by a self-governing people. They are components of illegitimate domination.

Wendy Brown on neoliberalism and democracy

Brown wrote (2019, 62-3):

Throttling democracy was fundamental, not incident al, to the broader neoliberal program. Democratic energies, the neoliberals believe, inherently engorges the political, which threatens freedom, spontaneous order, and development and at the extreme builds a redistributive administrative, overreaching state, and robust democratic activism both challenges moral authority and disrupts order from below. The exceptionally thin version of democracy that neoliberalism tolerates is thus detached from political freedom, political equality, and power sharing by citizens, from legislation aimed at the common good, from any notion of a public interest exceeding protection of individuals liberties and security, and from cultures of participation.

The neoliberals and their predecessors did not just oppose thick democracy. They meant to defend a predatory state, the empire and capital. They preferred system integration on the ground — sometimes known as fate — to social integration, of a colonized lifeworld to a vibrant society. They preferred a voiceless, faceless electorate, a void.

This way doth dictatorship lie

Mr. Wolf, Acting DHS Secretary, declared:

Due to a lack of action throughout the summer, Portland and its law-abiding residents continue to suffer from large-scale looting, arson, and vandalism — even killing. Businesses remain shuttered and Portlanders are held hostage by the daily violence that has gripped the city with no end in sight. This is precisely why President Trump has — and continues to — offer federal law enforcement assistance to Portland. And that is why I, in my capacity as the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, was not only authorized, but statutorily obligated, to protect federal property and persons on that property.

To be sure, the Trump Crime Syndicate has not bothered to curtail its criminal enterprises during this time of crisis….

Quote of the day

Not long ago Frank Snowden wrote:

The hypothesis [of his book] is that epidemics are not an esoteric subfield for the interested specialist but instead are a major part of the ‘big picture’ of historical change and development. Infectious diseases, in other words, are as important to understanding societal development as economic crises, wars, revolutions and demographic change (Snowden, 2020, 2).


Quote of the Day: Fictitious Capital



Cédric Durand wrote:

The return of the political is thus paradoxical. The hegemony of finance — the most fetishized form of wealth — is only maintained through the public authorities’ unconditional support. Left to itself, fictitious capital would collapse; and yet that would also pull down the whole of economies in its wake. In truth, finance is a master blackmailer. Financial hegemony dresses up in the liberal trappings of the market, yet captures the old sovereignty of the state all the better to squeeze the social body to feed its own profits [emphasis added].

Durand wrote his book in response to the Crash of 2008-9. We are unfortunate that the crisis before us might prove to be far worse, especially since the next collapse will reflect the workings of the plague on the economy. In both instances, the crisis reflected and will reflect the political character of the neoliberal project. That character included the use of state power to impose laissez faire market norms on the labor market, of decoupling welfare and well-being from the state. Despite their rhetoric, neoliberals never offered the anti-statist, anti-political program its promoters claimed for it. The neoliberal state was active. It defended the prerogatives of capital and those capitalists who captured part of the state. Neoliberals was, in fact, a form of authoritarian liberalism. The extremism it practiced (Goldwater) produced a viciously narrow form of individualism. The rich and powerful take whatever they can, the weak and poor suffer whatever comes their way.

Green Capitalism

Is it an oxymoron or just a plain dumb idea? I believe we can easily guess Rob Urie’s answer to this question:

The bottom line is one of commensurability. Economic production that produces toxic externalities like global warming, dead oceans, undrinkable water, unbreathable air, etc, depends on assigning little or no value to these. To make this very clear, Western economic ‘accounting’ places no value on these, on the most fundamental necessities of living beings, by design. As Oscar Wilde put it, a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. This is in fact a summation of Western economics; circumscription of the ‘knowable’ world by what has had a price tag put on it. The externalized costs of capitalist production are real— more real than the stuff in stores that is only ‘cheap’ because the true costs were lobbed off on people who haven’t yet fought back. To Mr. Krugman’s argument, even if technological innovation did reduce carbon emissions the people who would reap the benefits are not the same people who will pay the consequences— more carbon emissions is more even if the rate of growth is reduced.

Global warming is but shorthand for the increasingly conspicuous fact that the quest for ‘stuff’ has turned the entire planet into a noxious garbage dump. This concern might rightly be considered effete if ‘we,’ broadly considered, could exist in the garbage that some of us have created. But as global warming suggests, we can’t. The time for gimmicks, ‘technology,’ was a half century ago. And unless you missed this, the West is still plenty rich— rich in approximate proportion to the social and environmental catastrophes that capitalism has wrought. The question today is who pays, not what the costs are.

Quote of the day

John Kerry, a crude opportunist by trade and need, recently dismissed Edward Snowden’s manhood — his virtù, to use the sense of the word given to it by Niccolò Machiavelli. David Lindorff rightly took issue with Kerry’s denunciation of Snowden. He concluded thusly:

Kerry has no right to question anyone’s “manhood.”

Having John Kerry tell someone like Snowden to “man up” is the moral equivalent of Richard Nixon telling someone to follow his conscience or Bernie Madoff telling a homeless beggar to get an honest job.

Snowden would have to be crazy or a masochist to come back to the US and submit his fate to the “American justice system” touted by Secretary Kerry.

Without a doubt, Edward Snowden in his person and actions more concisely expresses the sense Machiavelli gave to this term than Kerry ever had, even if we include the Kerry who opposed the Vietnam War. Machiavelli would have praised Snowden’s ferocity and bravery, his tactical and strategic senses and even his patriotism. He would have appreciated Snowden’s audacious project, one which originated in his stated hope to help put an end to America’s emerging tyranny. He would have considered Snowden a fellow republican. On the other hand, Machiavelli would have judged Kerry to be a faithless mercenary, and a source of corruption.

Quote of the day

Renfrey Clarke wrote:

If the limits for adaptation to climate change of natural systems are crossed, ecosystems must soon collapse. If modern industrial capitalism were a person, he or she would be on suicide watch.

The system that has brought us quantum physics and reality television, modern medicine and the columns of Andrew Bolt is set on a course which, by all the best reckoning, points directly to its doing itself in.

If capitalism goes on — everything goes. Climate, coastlines, most living species, food supplies, the great bulk of humanity. And certainly, the preconditions for advanced civilisation, perhaps forever.

Moreover, we’re not just talking risk, in the sense of an off-chance. These are the most likely outcomes for capitalism’s current policies and performance in the area of climate change.

Having read Clarke’s article, one might conclude that the author merely made hyperbolic claims in order to serve a survivalist position. That assessment presumes that any prediction of a global ecological catastrophe — and a great extinction — overstates the case. Does it? I think not. Radical action is needed, but such action is rarely on the agenda. Rather, more of the same defines our age. This is why revolution today entails pulling hard on the emergency break (Walter Benjamin) while hoping against hope that we engaged the emergency break in time.