Financial parasitism and the destruction of democracy


24 November 2015

On Monday, US drug maker Pfizer Inc. announced its plans to buy rival Allergan Plc in the third-largest corporate merger in history.

The new company, which would keep the Pfizer name, would be the world’s largest drug maker. As a result of the deal, known as an “inversion” because the smaller Ireland-based Allergan would buy the larger US-based Pfizer, the new company would pay a tax rate of 17–18 percent, compared to the 25.5 percent Pfizer paid last year.

The merger brings the total valuation of global mergers and acquisitions announced so far this year to $4.2 trillion. Mergers activity in 2015 is set to surpass that of any other previous year, including the $4.38 trillion record set in 2007, just before the outbreak of the global financial crisis.

In announcing the merger with Allergan, Pfizer CEO Ian Read said that the deal would “create a leading global pharmaceutical company with the strength to research, discover and deliver more medicines and therapies to more people around the world.”

Reality is the exact opposite. Financial documents released as part of the merger make clear that the resulting company plans to carry out a massive cost-cutting campaign. The company expects to implement some $2 billion in cost savings, including $660,000 in research and development funding, with the remainder of the cuts likely to come from layoffs and other consolidations.

The fundamental purpose of the wave of mergers is to find new ways to funnel money into the pockets of financial investors who are demanding ever greater returns. It is one expression of the financial parasitism that pervades the global economy.

Earlier this month, Birinyi Associates reported that US companies spent $516.72 billion buying back their own shares in the first three quarters of this year, the highest level since 2007. That figure is equivalent to the gross domestic product of Argentina, a country with 45 million people.

Apple, the world’s largest company, has spent $30.22 billion on share buybacks so far this year. During the same period, the company spent only about $6 billion on research and development, and less than $12 billion paying its workers. This includes US retail employees, whose base pay is $13 per hour, and assembly workers in China making only $1.50 per hour.

Apple is far from the exception. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the largest US corporations have in recent years spent more money buying back their own shares than hiring people or building factories. The effect of the share buy-backs is to boost corporate stock prices, in the process inflating the pay of top executives, whose compensation has been increasingly tied to stock “performance.”

An unpublished Bank of America research note cited by Bloomberg noted, “For every job created in the US this decade, companies spent $296,000 buying back their stocks.”

After years of near-record profits, US corporations are sitting on a cash hoard of some $1.4 trillion. But far from using these funds to expand productive investment, global corporations are spending it on share buy-backs, mergers and acquisitions and executive pay raises.

The effect of this process is to further constrict real economic output. US manufacturing grew at the slowest pace in two years last month according to figures released Monday, while the latest monthly jobs report, praised by commentators as “stellar” and “off the charts,” showed that the US added exactly zero jobs in the manufacturing sector in October.

The orgy of financial speculation on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms is one side of the vast upward redistribution of wealth in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, which has been facilitated by the infusion of cash into the global financial system by the US Federal Reserve and other global central banks. Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, the world’s central banks have undertaken some $12.4 trillion in asset purchases, and have cut interest rates on 606 separate occasions, according to the Bank of America research note cited above.

The vast accumulation of wealth by the financial elite is predicated on the continuous reduction of the share of social resources going to the working class. Workers’ incomes have stagnated for decades throughout North America and Europe, and in many countries they are significantly lower than they were before the financial crisis. In the United States, for instance, the income of a typical household fell by 12 percent between 2007 and 2013, according to the Federal Reserve’s survey of consumer finances.

As a result of these processes, the top one percent of the population has accumulated 95 percent of all income gains since 2009, while the wealth of the 400 richest individuals in the US has more than doubled. The growth of social inequality has likewise fueled a growth of opposition to the capitalist system and the domination of the financial elite over all aspects of society.

This does much to explain the hysterical response by the ruling classes of Europe and North America to the November 13 terror attacks in Paris, which were seized upon in France and Brussels to implement sweeping and far-reaching attacks on basic constitutional rights, allowing the police to arrest and seize the possessions of anyone, and to ban assemblies and demonstrations. In the United States, the Paris attacks have been used to renew calls for the criminalization of encrypted communications.

It is worth noting that, despite the supposedly earth-shattering and paradigm-changing attacks in Paris, which have led some of the world’s oldest “democracies” to abandon principles that they claim to have upheld for nearly two centuries, the global markets seem unfazed. In the 10 days since the Paris terror attacks, stock prices have risen in almost every country. The French CAC is up by 1.69 percent, the US Nasdaq is up by 3.5 percent and the German DAX is up by 3.59 percent.

“Finance capital strives for domination, not freedom,” noted the Russian revolutionary Lenin, quoting the socialist economist Rudolf Hilferding. As in the periods before the First and Second World Wars, the ruling classes increasingly see an open turn to police-state forms of rule as the surest means to ensure the protection and expansion of their wealth.

Andre Damon

More than 500,000 homeless in the US

By Kate Randall
21 November 2015

More than a half million people were homeless in the United States this year, nearly a quarter of them children, according to a new report. The homelessness crisis is a stark indicator of the social reality in 2015 America and corresponds to a scarcity of affordable housing and dwindling wages for low-income workers and their families.

The report from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released Thursday counted 564,708 people homeless, both sheltered and unsheltered. These figures, gathered by volunteers on a given night in January 2015, are undoubtedly an undercount. Many of those living in motels, doubling up with relatives and friends or living on the streets are likely not represented in the tally.

Twenty-three percent, or 127,787, of the nation’s homeless are children under the age of 18, according to HUD. However, this figure is at odds with statistics from another branch of the federal government. According to the Department of Education, there are 1.36 million homeless students in the nation’s K-12 public schools, double the number in 2006, before the onset of the financial collapse.

According to HUD, 206,286 people were in homeless families with children, or 36.5 percent of the HUD total. Six percent of these homeless families are chronically homeless, in which the head of household has a disability and has been homeless for a year, or has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness over the past three years.

The HUD figures show homelessness declining by 2 percent between 2014 and 2015. But even if these numbers are taken as good coin, this represents a minuscule decline that hardly makes a dent in the homeless population.

A homeless woman in Chicago—the number of unsheltered people with chronic patterns of homelessness increased in the past year for the first time since 2011

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there is a shortage of 7 million units of affordable housing throughout the US, creating a desperate situation for workers and their families as they search for decent and affordable accommodations.

As the majority of working people feel the housing squeeze, they face declining real wages. According to a recent National Employment Law Projet report, workers’ wages have declined by 4 percent, after adjusting for inflation, between 2009 and 2014.

The vast majority of the US population has not experienced the benefits of the “economic recovery,” proclaimed by the Obama administration in mid-2009. Homelessness is one of the brutal consequences of these conditions.

Of the 564,708 people counted as homeless by HUD in January 2015, 69 percent were staying in sheltered locations, and 31 percent were unsheltered, living in places unfit for human habitation, such as under bridges, in cars or in abandoned buildings.

More than half of the homeless population is concentrated in five states:

· California: 21 percent or 115,738 people

· New York: 16 percent or 88,250 people

· Florida: 6 percent or 35,900 people

· Texas: 4 percent or 23,678 people

· Massachusetts: 4 percent or 21,135 people

While homelessness declined in 33 states and the District of Columbia between 2014 and 2015, according to the report, 17 states experienced an increase. New York State experienced an explosion of homelessness, rising by 7,660 people, or by 9.5 percent in one year. Since 2007, New York has seen a staggering 41 percent rise, with 25,649 people added to the homeless ranks.

More than one in five homeless people are located in the nation’s two largest urban areas: New York City, with 75,323 (14 percent of US total); Los Angeles (city and county), with 41,174 (7 percent). These are followed by Seattle/King County, Washington with 10,122; San Diego (city and county), 8,742; Las Vegas/Clark County, Nevada, 7,509; and the District of Columbia, 7,298.

Sixty-three percent of the homeless population are individuals without children. Of these 358,422 people, 57 percent were in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, or safe havens. The remaining 43 percent were living rough—on the streets, in parks, abandoned buildings and vehicles. Most homeless individuals are men (72 percent).

Nine of every 10 homeless individuals are over 24 years of age. Fifty-four percent are white, while African Americans are disproportionately represented, accounting for 36 percent of the total. About 17 percent of homeless individuals are Hispanic or Latino.

HUD defines unaccompanied youths as persons under age 25 who are not accompanied by a parent or guardian and do not reside with their children. There were 36,907 unaccompanied homeless youth in January 2015, including 87 percent ages 18-24 and 13 percent under age 18. More than half of unaccompanied youth under age 18 were counted in unsheltered locations.

A quarter of all unaccompanied youth, 8,964, live in five major US cities: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco and San Jose, California.

HUD added a new category for 2015—parenting youth—defined as an individual under age 25 who is the parent or legal guardian of one or more children who sleep in the same place with him/her. There were 9,901 parenting youth in January 2015.

Homeless unaccompanied youth and parenting youth are those hardest hit by unemployment, low wages and student loan debt. This segment of the population, with or without children, is the most likely to live with relatives or friends and go uncounted by HUD and other surveys.

2015 estimates of homeless people by state SOURCE: US Department of Housing and Urban Development

More than one in ten homeless adults are veterans. There were 47,725 homeless veterans on a single night in January 2015, or 11 percent of the 436,921 homeless adults. Veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea and the countless US imperialist exploits are included in this total.

Returning veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, substance abuse and other maladies struggle to find housing. Twenty-four percent of homeless veterans (11,311) live in California. Three other states had at least 2,000 homeless veterans: Florida (3,926), New York (2,399), and Texas (2,393).

In January 2015, 83,170 individuals were chronically homeless in the US. Two-thirds of these individuals, or 54,815 people, were staying in unsheltered locations, more than twice the national rate for all homeless people.

The number of unsheltered people with chronic patterns of homelessness increased by 4 percent over the past year, the first such rise since 2011. The number of unsheltered chronically homeless rose by 4,409 in Los Angeles alone.

Despite the massive increase in homelessness since the beginning of the financial crisis, funding for public housing has been repeatedly slashed in the post-2009 period. A report by the San Francisco-based Western Regional Advocacy Project noted that “HUD funding for new public housing units…has been zero since 1996,” while “Capital available to perform maintenance in 2012 [was] $1,875 billion,” representing a fall of $625 million over three years.

Mass homelessness is only the most acute manifestation of America’s housing crisis. According to a study published by Harvard University’s Joint Center For Housing Studies in June, the homeownership rate for 35-44 year-olds, which has been plunging for decades, has hit the lowest levels since the 1960s. Only slightly more than one-third of households headed by those aged 25-35 own their own homes.

The persistence of mass homelessness in the United States, despite six years of “economic recovery,” is an expression of the persistence of mass unemployment, falling wages, the slashing of social services, and the increasingly unaffordable living costs in America’s major cities, including Los Angeles and New York, that are home to a disproportionate share of America’s billionaires.

According to a poll released earlier this month, half of New Yorkers are “either just getting by or finding it difficult to manage financially.” More than one in five said they did not have enough money to buy food over the past year, and 17 percent said that they “have had times over the last year when they lacked the money to provide adequate shelter for their family.”

In the New York borough of Manhattan, median rent prices have grown by 9.5 percent over the past year. To afford a typical Manhattan apartment, one would have to pay over $40,000 a year in rent alone, 30 percent higher than the median wage in the United States. Not surprisingly, one recent study found that it is impossible for any worker making the minimum wage of $8.75 per hour to afford an apartment in any part of New York City—defined as spending no more than 30 percent of monthly income on rent.

The response of the “progressive” administration of Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio to the deepening housing crisis in New York has been to further privatize public housing and drive up costs for low-income residents. De Blasio’s public housing plan, dubbed NextGen NYCHA, would jack up housing fees, such as parking, by up to several thousand dollars a year for low-income residents, while turning over more than 10,000 apartments and 11 acres of prime real estate to private developers.

Paris attacks: it’s time for a more radical reaction

By Claire Veale On November 19, 2015

Post image for Paris attacks: it’s time for a more radical reactionIn the wake of the Paris attacks fingers were pointed in all directions, but few were directed at France itself. What has radicalized the French youth?

Photo: A young man is arrested at a student protest in Paris, by Philipe Leroyer, via Flickr.

The deadly attacks in Paris on the night of Friday, November 13, were quickly met by a global rush of solidarity with France and the French people. From world leaders expressing their sympathies, to raising the French flag on buildings across the globe, and more visibly, on Facebook profiles, everyone stood unequivocally united with France.

The sentiment of solidarity behind this mass concern is heart-warming, however it must come hand in hand with a demand for a serious debate on matters of terrorism, violence and war. Rage and sadness should not hinder our ability to think.

Why Paris? Who were the attackers, and how could they do such things? How can we counter these kind of attacks? Before bowing to the often narrow interpretations provided by the media and our political leaders, we must look for well-informed answers to these important questions. The current response–including more French bombings in Syria and extreme security measures on French territory–may be a fuel for further violence, rather than bring viable solutions.

“Us versus Them”

As a French national, the sudden inundation of the tricolored flag on my Facebook wall was a little unsettling. I do feel grateful for the surge of solidarity and wonderful messages calling for love and unity from all over the world. However, I find myself wondering if the French flag is truly the appropriate symbol to demonstrate this call for peace and inclusiveness, and to bring people together in unity against terror.

To me, the French flag represents first and foremost the French state, the respective governments that have ruled my country, and their foreign policies. Domestically, it is mostly a nationalist symbol, too often used by the likes of Marine Le Pen to create enemies out of foreigners. It represents certain values defined as “French”, as opposed to foreign values France should not welcome, and as such it can be a dangerous vector of racism.

In parallel to this bleu-blanc-rouge frenzy, many artists and humorists have responded to the attacks defending the stereotypes of French culture; drinking wine, enjoying life, smoking on terrasses. They state that any attack on French values is an attack on enjoying life itself. Although flattering in a way, as they praise what may seem the essence of being French, it unjustly encourages us to see the attacks through the lens of the “clash of civilisations” where enemy and foreign ideals threaten our way of life, our moral values.

Let us be clear about two things. First, in this “us” versus “them” discourse, I am not sure who the “us” is supposed to be. Am I–a French citizen who has long opposed aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East–all of a sudden on the same side as my government?

To many of us, the political elites of the country, who have insisted in involving France in wars that we did not want, are part of the problem. The different successive French governments have indirectly contributed to the rise of extremist groups and the radicalization of young men to join them. Waving the French flag could contribute to diminishing their role and the responsibility they hold in this crisis. Worse, it could legitimize further undesirable military actions abroad.

And second, who is “them”? The “War on Terror”, as it has been clearly framed by world leaders, is not a war in the traditional sense, with a clear, visible enemy. The attackers of the Paris killings weren’t foreigners; most of them were French or European citizens, born and raised on European soil. We are not talking about a mysterious, faraway enemy, but about young French men and women who are as much a part of French society as anyone else.

A show of force

And yet, the French president so promptly declared “war” and intensified the direct and aggressive bombings of IS targets in Syria. The terrorists being mostly European citizens, may it not be wiser to ask ourselves what is wrong in our own societies instead of taking such rash military action abroad?

Worryingly, there has been little resistance within the media or even within French left-wing circles, to Hollande’s policies. Has the emotion and anger from the Paris attacks impeded our ability to recognize that dropping bombs in the Middle East will not resolve the security threats that emanate from within?

Terrorism is an invisible enemy emanating from complex socio-political circumstances, which needs to be tackled in a more subtle and thought-through way. History has shown us that 14 years of “War against Terror” in the Middle East has only contributed to more violence, more terrorism and sadly, more deaths. Isn’t it time we started thinking about different tactics?

Since the attacks, Francois Hollande has proposed changes in the constitution, to make it easier for the state to resort to the use of force when facing terrorism. These changes include an increase in presidential powers, allowing Mr Hollande to enforce security measures without the usual scrutiny of the parliament. The president wants to extent the duration of the state of emergency, limiting freedom of movement and freedom of association, including mass demonstrations, in the name of national security.

The suggested changes could also result in widening the definition of targeted citizens to anyone who is “seriously suspected” of being a threat to public order, opening the door to a worrying reality of aggressive police tactics directed towards poor, disillusioned youth. Furthermore, Hollande wants to withdraw French nationality to any bi-national citizen suspected of terrorism acts.

The president’s reaction is deeply disturbing, and reinforces the skewed vision of a “foreign” enemy, which will inevitable result in discriminatory and racist policies and reactions towards foreigners, or anyone perceived as foreign, in France. More worrying still, is a recent poll in Le Parisien, which shows that 84% of respondents supported the decision to increase the manoeuvring power of the police and the army, while 91% agreed with the idea of withdrawing French nationality to suspected terrorists.

Where are the French values of openness and multiculturalism that we so ardently defend now? We must not let fear and an inaccurate “us” versus “them” discourse justify aggressive policies against our own citizens, or against anyone else for that matter, including refugees fleeing the very terror we claim to fight.

Why did French citizens decide to kill?

The reason why the media has focused on this angle of opposing the French values of liberté, egalité, fraternité, with the fearful and hateful values preached by the IS, is that it gives easy answers to complex questions. Why was Paris attacked? Because, we are told, it represents the heart of freedom, multiculturalism, secularism and joie de vivre. But does it really? France doesn’t always seem to live up to the values it professes.

The real question should be: why did young French (and Belgian) men and boys decide to sacrifice their life to kill members of their own society?

Two answers seem to have emerged. The first, mainly employed by the political elite and the media, is that the killers were “insane”, “brainwashed” and “barbaric”, and could not have acted rationally. This approach refuses proper analysis of the killers’ motives, brushing them aside to favour irrational and extremist religious ideology, and thus justifying a purely violent and heavy-handed response.

The second answer, coming from many left-wing, anti-racist circles, claims that such acts of terrorism are a direct result of France’s foreign and domestic policy. Although both seem radically opposed, they do have one thing in common: they undermine the agency and accountability of the attackers. This second approach, which points out undeniable political considerations, remains flawed in the same way as the first: it forgets that the killers are people who think and act, and not simply passive products of racist and imperialist foreign policy.

It is important to recognize the attackers as human beings, capable of acting and thinking rationally, as it is a first step towards understanding the reasoning behind their actions. Religious fanaticism is simply a vector of violence, as has been the case for many other ideologies in the past, such as nationalism, fascism, or communism. These ideologies are not the root causes of violence. Although this may seem obvious, there is a need to stress that religious extremism is not the reason why a young man would take up a gun and shoot into a crowd, it is simply an instrument to channel their anger.

We must try to look at the very roots of these young men’s discontent. Debates should be opened about the school system, about the ghettoization of urban areas across France, about police violence and domestic anti-terror security measures, about the prison system, about structural racism, about our skewed justice system, about oppressive and strict secularism; and the list goes on.

These questions are complex ones, and ones that are not easy to address. Thus, we prefer to paint the picture in black and white, our values versus their values, rather than to face the internal problems of our broken societies.

The little research that has been conducted on IS fighters, abroad and within Europe, shows that young men don’t necessarily join the extremist group for religious reasons. The Kouachi brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo shootings had suffered a difficult childhood in poverty after the suicide of their mother, with little support from social services and surrounded by extreme violence as children.

Anger at injustices they face, alienation, and years of increasing humiliation from the very societies they are meant to be a part of can push young men to express their frustrations through the vehicle of religious extremism. IS just happens to be an organized group, which seriously threatens European societies, and which offers these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity and their pride.

As Anne Aly explains: “Religion and ideology serve as vehicles for an ‘us versus them’ mentality and as the justification for violence against those who represent ‘the enemy’, but they are not the drivers of radicalization.”

Radical solutions to radical problems

Radical solutions mean, first and foremost, tackling the problem at its roots.Julien Salingue expressed this idea very eloquently after the Charlie Hebdo shootings: “Deep change, and therefore the questioning of a system that generates structural inequalities and exploitation of violence is necessary”.

Every injustice and every act of humiliation towards a member of society can only cause anger and hatred, which might someday transform into violence. James Gilligan has written extensively about the way the prison system in America serves to intensify the feeling of shame and humiliation that push individuals to violence in the first place. This analysis is useful when looking at European societies, and the processes of discrimination and humiliation that push young men to react violently.

We must condemn all policies, discourses and actions that legitimize and reinforce the politics of hatred. Police violence towards young men of Arab origin, for instance, is frequent in France. Amedy Coulibaly, another actor in the Paris shootings in January 2015, suffered the death of his friend in a police “slipup” when he was 18. This kind of direct aggression perpetrated on a daily basis adds to the structural violence and discrimination young men from underprivileged backgrounds experience in European societies. War for them is not such a distant, disconnected reality, but closer to their every day life.

Every racist insult, act of police brutality, unfair trial, or discriminatory treatment brings them one step closer to carry out tragedies as the massacre in Paris. We must therefore question the very system we live in and the way of life we defend so defiantly after the attacks, for the problem may be closer to us than we imagine.

Claire Veale is a graduate from the SOAS, University of London, in Violence, Conflict & Development. Having lived and worked in several continents, she is particularly interested in writing about social movements, Latin American politics, gender rights and international development issues.

Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism in the United States

Let Us Finish What FDR and MLK Started

‘The bottom line is that today in America we not only have massive wealth and income inequality,’ said Sanders on Thursday, ‘but a power structure which protects that inequality.’ (Image: Screenshot/Common Dreams)

The following are the prepared remarks for a speech given by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at Georgetown University on Thursday, November 19th, 2015.

In his inaugural remarks in January 1937, in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt looked out at the nation and this is what he saw.

He saw tens of millions of its citizens denied the basic necessities of life.

He saw millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hung over them day by day.

He saw millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

He saw millions lacking the means to buy the products they needed and by their poverty and lack of disposable income denying employment to many other millions.

He saw one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

And he acted. Against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal government to the people of our country. He combatted cynicism, fear and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed the country.

And that is what we have to do today.

And, by the way, almost everything he proposed was called “socialist.” Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country was “socialist.” The concept of the “minimum wage” was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as “socialist.” Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as “socialist.” Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class.

Thirty years later, in the 1960s, President Johnson passed Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to millions of senior citizens and families with children, persons with disabilities and some of the most vulnerable people in this county. Once again these vitally important programs were derided by the right wing as socialist programs that were a threat to our American way of life.

That was then. Now is now.

Today, in 2015, despite the Wall Street crash of 2008, which drove this country into the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the American people are clearly better off economically than we were in 1937.

But, here is a very hard truth that we must acknowledge and address. Despite a huge increase in technology and productivity, despite major growth in the U.S. and global economy, tens of millions of American families continue to lack the basic necessities of life, while millions more struggle every day to provide a minimal standard of living for their families. The reality is that for the last 40 years the great middle class of this country has been in decline and faith in our political system is now extremely low.

The rich get much richer. Almost everyone else gets poorer. Super PACs funded by billionaires buy elections. Ordinary people don’t vote. We have an economic and political crisis in this country and the same old, same old establishment politics and economics will not effectively address it.

If we are serious about transforming our country, if we are serious about rebuilding the middle class, if we are serious about reinvigorating our democracy, we need to develop a political movement which, once again, is prepared to take on and defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation. The billionaire class cannot have it all. Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent.

We need to create a culture which, as Pope Francis reminds us, cannot just be based on the worship of money. We must not accept a nation in which billionaires compete as to the size of their super-yachts, while children in America go hungry and veterans sleep out on the streets.

Today, in America, we are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but few Americans know that because so much of the new income and wealth goes to the people on top. In fact, over the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth – trillions of wealth – going from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent – a handful of people who have seen a doubling of the percentage of the wealth they own over that period.

Unbelievably, and grotesquely, the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

Today, in America, millions of our people are working two or three jobs just to survive. In fact, Americans work longer hours than do the people of any industrialized country. Despite the incredibly hard work and long hours of the American middle class, 58 percent of all new income generated today is going to the top one percent.

Today, in America, as the middle class continues to disappear, median family income, is $4,100 less than it was in 1999. The median male worker made over $700 less than he did 42 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. Last year, the median female worker earned more than $1,000 less than she did in 2007.

Today, in America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, more than half of older workers have no retirement savings – zero – while millions of elderly and people with disabilities are trying to survive on $12,000 or $13,000 a year. From Vermont to California, older workers are scared to death. “How will I retire with dignity?,” they ask?

Today, in America, nearly 47 million Americans are living in poverty and over 20 percent of our children, including 36 percent of African American children, are living in poverty — the highest rate of childhood poverty of nearly any major country on earth.

Today, in America, 29 million Americans have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with outrageously high co-payments and deductibles. Further, with the United States paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, 1 out of 5 patients cannot afford to fill the prescriptions their doctors write.

Today, in America, youth unemployment and underemployment is over 35 percent. Meanwhile, we have more people in jail than any other country and countless lives are being destroyed as we spend $80 billion a year locking up fellow Americans.

The bottom line is that today in America we not only have massive wealth and income inequality, but a power structure which protects that inequality. A handful of super-wealthy campaign contributors have enormous influence over the political process, while their lobbyists determine much of what goes on in Congress.

In 1944, in his State of the Union speech, President Roosevelt outlined what he called a second Bill of Rights. This is one of the most important speeches ever made by a president but, unfortunately, it has not gotten the attention that it deserves.

In that remarkable speech this is what Roosevelt stated, and I quote: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men.” End of quote. In other words, real freedom must include economic security. That was Roosevelt’s vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved. It is time that we did.

In that speech, Roosevelt described the economic rights that he believed every American was entitled to: The right to a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing, and time off from work, the right for every business, large and small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and domination by monopolies. The right of all Americans to have a decent home and decent health care.

What Roosevelt was stating in 1944, what Martin Luther King, Jr. stated in similar terms 20 years later and what I believe today, is that true freedom does not occur without economic security.

People are not truly free when they are unable to feed their family. People are not truly free when they are unable to retire with dignity. People are not truly free when they are unemployed or underpaid or when they are exhausted by working long hours. People are not truly free when they have no health care.

So let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me. It builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that; “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.” It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.

Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.

Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt.

It is a system, for example, which during the 1990s allowed Wall Street to spend $5 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions to get deregulated. Then, ten years later, after the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior of Wall Street led to their collapse, it is a system which provided trillions in government aid to bail them out. Wall Street used their wealth and power to get Congress to do their bidding for deregulation and then, when their greed caused their collapse, they used their wealth and power to get Congress to bail them out. Quite a system!

And, then, to add insult to injury, we were told that not only were the banks too big to fail, the bankers were too big to jail. Kids who get caught possessing marijuana get police records. Wall Street CEOs who help destroy the economy get raises in their salaries. This is what Martin Luther King, Jr. meant by socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else.

In my view, it’s time we had democratic socialism for working families, not just Wall Street, billionaires and large corporations. It means that we should not be providing welfare for corporations, huge tax breaks for the very rich, or trade policies which boost corporate profits as workers lose their jobs. It means that we create a government that works for works for all of us, not just powerful special interests. It means that economic rights must be an essential part of what America stands for.

It means that health care should be a right of all people, not a privilege. This is not a radical idea. It exists in every other major country on earth. Not just Denmark, Sweden or Finland. It exists in Canada, France, Germany and Taiwan. That is why I believe in a Medicare-for-all single payer health care system. Yes. The Affordable Care Act, which I helped write and voted for, is a step forward for this country. But we must build on it and go further.

Medicare for all would not only guarantee health care for all people, not only save middle class families and our entire nation significant sums of money, it would radically improve the lives of all Americans and bring about significant improvements in our economy.

People who get sick will not have to worry about paying a deductible or making a co-payment. They could go to the doctor when they should, and not end up in the emergency room. Business owners will not have to spend enormous amounts of time worrying about how they are going to provide health care for their employees. Workers will not have to be trapped in jobs they do not like simply because their employers are offering them decent health insurance plans. Instead, they will be able to pursue the jobs and work they love, which could be an enormous boon for the economy. And by the way, moving to a Medicare for all program will end the disgrace of Americans paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

Democratic socialism means that, in the year 2015, a college degree is equivalent to what a high school degree was 50 years ago – and that public education must allow every person in this country, who has the ability, the qualifications and the desire, the right to go to a public colleges or university tuition free. This is also not a radical idea. It exists today in many countries around the world. In fact, it used to exist in the United States.

Democratic socialism means that our government does everything it can to create a full employment economy. It makes far more sense to put millions of people back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, than to have a real unemployment rate of almost 10%. It is far smarter to invest in jobs and educational opportunities for unemployed young people, than to lock them up and spend $80 billion a year through mass incarceration.

Democratic socialism means that if someone works forty hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty: that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage – $15 an hour over the next few years. It means that we join the rest of the world and pass the very strong Paid Family and Medical Leave legislation now in Congress. How can it possibly be that the United States, today, is virtually the only nation on earth, large or small, which does not guarantee that a working class woman can stay home for a reasonable period of time with her new-born baby? How absurd is that?

Democratic socialism means that we have government policy which does not allow the greed and profiteering of the fossil fuel industry to destroy our environment and our planet, and that we have a moral responsibility to combat climate change and leave this planet healthy and inhabitable for our kids and grandchildren.

Democratic socialism means, that in a democratic, civilized society the wealthiest people and the largest corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. Yes. Innovation, entrepreneurship and business success should be rewarded. But greed for the sake of greed is not something that public policy should support. It is not acceptable that in a rigged economy in the last two years the wealthiest 15 Americans saw their wealth increase by $170 billion, more wealth than is owned by the bottom 130 million Americans. Let us not forget what Pope Francis has so elegantly stated; “We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

It is not acceptable that major corporations stash their profits in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying $100 billion in taxes each and every year. It is not acceptable that hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate than nurses or truck drivers. It is not acceptable that billionaire families are able to leave virtually all of their wealth to their families without paying a reasonable estate tax. It is not acceptable that Wall Street speculators are able to gamble trillions of dollars in the derivatives market without paying a nickel in taxes on those transactions.

Democratic socialism, to me, does not just mean that we must create a nation of economic and social justice. It also means that we must create a vibrant democracy based on the principle of one person one vote. It is extremely sad that the United States, one of the oldest democracies on earth, has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country, and that millions of young and working class people have given up on our political system entirely. Every American should be embarrassed that in our last national election 63% of the American people, and 80% of young people, did not vote. Clearly, despite the efforts of many Republican governors to suppress the vote, we must make it easier for people to participate in the political process, not harder. It is not too much to demand that everyone 18 years of age is registered to vote – end of discussion.

Further, it is unacceptable that we have a corrupt campaign finance system which allows millionaires, billionaires and large corporations to contribute as much as they want to Super Pacs to elect candidates who will represent their special interests. We must overturn Citizens United and move to public funding of elections.

So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this:

I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.

I believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America instead of shipping jobs and profits overseas.

I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes – if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the marketplace finally pay the taxes they should.

I don’t believe in special treatment for the top 1%, but I do believe in equal treatment for African-Americans who are right to proclaim the moral principle that Black Lives Matter.

I despise appeals to nativism and prejudice, and I do believe in immigration reform that gives Hispanics and others a pathway to citizenship and a better life.

I don’t believe in some foreign “ism”, but I believe deeply in American idealism.

I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all.

No one understood better than FDR the connection between American strength at home and our ability to defend America at home and across the world. That is why he proposed a second Bill of Rights in 1944, and said in that State of the Union:

“America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

I’m not running to pursue reckless adventures abroad, but to rebuild America’s strength at home. I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will never send our sons and daughters to war under false pretense or pretenses or into dubious battles with no end in sight.

And when we discuss foreign policy, let me join the people of Paris in mourning their loss, and pray that those who have been wounded will enjoy a full recovery. Our hearts also go out to the families of the hundreds of Russians apparently killed by an ISIS bomb on their flight, and those who lost their lives to terrorist attacks in Lebanon and elsewhere.

To my mind, it is clear that the United States must pursue policies to destroy the brutal and barbaric ISIS regime, and to create conditions that prevent fanatical extremist ideologies from flourishing. But we cannot – and should not – do it alone.

Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy. It begins with the acknowledgment that unilateral military action should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilize entire regions for decades. It begins with the reflection that the failed policy decisions of the past – rushing to war, regime change in Iraq, or toppling Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or Guatemalan President Árbenz in 1954, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President Allende in 1973. These are the sorts of policies do not work, do not make us safer, and must not be repeated.

After World War II, in response to the fear of Soviet aggression, European nations and the United States established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – an organization based on shared interests and goals and the notion of a collective defense against a common enemy. It is my belief that we must expand on these ideals and solidify our commitments to work together to combat the global threat of terror.

We must create an organization like NATO to confront the security threats of the 21st century – an organization that emphasizes cooperation and collaboration to defeat the rise of violent extremism and importantly to address the root causes underlying these brutal acts. We must work with our NATO partners, and expand our coalition to include Russia and members of the Arab League.

But let’s be very clear. While the U.S. and other western nations have the strength of our militaries and political systems, the fight against ISIS is a struggle for the soul of Islam, and countering violent extremism and destroying ISIS must be done primarily by Muslim nations – with the strong support of their global partners.

These same sentiments have been echoed by those in the region. Jordan’s King Abdallah II said in a speech on Sunday that terrorism is the “greatest threat to our region” and that Muslims must lead the fight against it. He noted that confronting extremism is both a regional and international responsibility, and that it is incumbent on Muslim nations and communities to confront those who seek to hijack their societies and generations with intolerance and violent ideology.

And let me congratulate King Abdallah not only for his wise remarks, but also for the role that his small country is playing in attempting to address the horrific refugee crisis in the region.

A new and strong coalition of Western powers, Muslim nations, and countries like Russia must come together in a strongly coordinated way to combat ISIS, to seal the borders that fighters are currently flowing across, to share counter-terrorism intelligence, to turn off the spigot of terrorist financing, and to end support for exporting radical ideologies.

What does all of this mean? Well, it means that, in many cases, we must ask more from those in the region. While Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon have accepted their responsibilities for taking in Syrian refugees, other countries in the region have done nothing or very little.

Equally important, and this is a point that must be made – countries in the region like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE – countries of enormous wealth and resources – have contributed far too little in the fight against ISIS. That must change. King Abdallah is absolutely right when he says that that the Muslim nations must lead the fight against ISIS, and that includes some of the most wealthy and powerful nations in the region, who, up to this point have done far too little.

Saudi Arabia has the 3rd largest defense budget in the world, yet instead of fighting ISIS they have focused more on a campaign to oust Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Kuwait, a country whose ruling family was restored to power by U.S. troops after the first Gulf War, has been a well-known source of financing for ISIS and other violent extremists. It has been reported that Qatar will spend $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup, including the construction of an enormous number of facilities to host that event – $200 billion on hosting a soccer event, yet very little to fight against ISIS. Worse still, it has been widely reported that the government has not been vigilant in stemming the flow of terrorist financing, and that Qatari individuals and organizations funnel money to some of the most extreme terrorist groups, including al Nusra and ISIS.

All of this has got to change. Wealthy and powerful Muslim nations in the region can no longer sit on the sidelines and expect the United States to do their work for them. As we develop a strongly coordinated effort, we need a commitment from these countries that the fight against ISIS takes precedence over the religious and ideological differences that hamper the kind of cooperation that we desperately need.

Further, we all understand that Bashar al-Assad is a brutal dictator who has slaughtered many of his own people. I am pleased that we saw last weekend diplomats from all over world, known as the International Syria Support Group, set a timetable for a Syrian-led political transition with open and fair elections. These are the promising beginnings of a collective effort to end the bloodshed and to move to political transition.

The diplomatic plan for Assad’s transition from power is a good step in a united front. But our priority must be to defeat ISIS. Nations all over the world, who share a common interest in protecting themselves against international terrorist, must make the destruction of ISIS the highest priority. Nations in the region must commit – that instead of turning a blind eye — they will commit their resources to preventing the free flow of terrorist finances and fighters to Syria and Iraq. We need a commitment that they will counter the violent rhetoric that fuels terrorism – rhetoric that often occurs within their very borders.

This is the model in which we must pursue solutions to the sorts of global threats we face.

While individual nations indeed have historic disputes – the U.S. and Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia – the time is now to put aside those differences to work towards a common purpose of destroying ISIS. Sadly, as we have seen recently, no country is immune from attacks by the violent organization or those whom they have radicalized.

Thus, we must work with our partners in Europe, the Gulf states, Africa, and Southeast Asia – all along the way asking the hard questions whether their actions are serving our unified purpose.

The bottom line is that ISIS must be destroyed, but it cannot be defeated by the United States alone. A new and effective coalition must be formed with the Muslim nations leading the effort on the ground, while the United States and other major forces provide the support they need.

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), currently a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont’s at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website. Follow him on Twitter: @SenSanders or @BernieSanders

Obama backs $607 billion Pentagon bill that bars Guantanamo closing


By Bill Van Auken
12 November 2015

The White House indicated Tuesday that President Barack Obama will sign into law a Pentagon spending bill that significantly raises the base budget of the US war machine while prohibiting the shutdown of the prison camp at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba or the transfer of its detainees to US facilities.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides for a base Pentagon budget (excluding expenditures on active military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria) of $548 billion, larger than any year since the end of the Cold War.

On top of the base budget, the funding bill includes $50.9 billion for “overseas contingency operations,” that will pay for ongoing military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, down from $64.2 billion in the last fiscal year. Together with a few smaller increments, this brings the total in military spending to $607 billion for the fiscal year that began October 1.

Over the past 15 years, the base Pentagon budget has risen by 42.7 percent, growing steadily as Obama replaced Bush, the Iraq war was wound down and then restarted, and the Afghanistan war was escalated and then scaled back.

The White House indicated that Obama would approve the legislation. “I would expect that you would see the president sign the NDAA when it comes to his desk,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a news briefing.

The fiscal year 2016 military budget sent to the White House was passed by the US Senate in an overwhelming 91-3 vote on Tuesday, following the passage of a similar bill by the House of Representatives last week by a margin of 370-58, allowing Republican congressional leaders to claim clear bipartisan support for keeping Washington’s infamous offshore detention camp open.

Last month, Obama vetoed an earlier incarnation of the bill, citing budgetary considerations as his first concern, insufficient reforms to military procurement his second and the ban on Guantanamo’s shutdown only third.

The Republican leadership had attempted to keep in place spending caps imposed in a 2011 budget-cutting measure known as the sequester, while still raising the Pentagon’s real budget by shifting increased appropriations into an overseas contingency operations (OCO) slush fund used to pay for ongoing American military interventions abroad.

Under a two-year budget deal worked out between the White House and the Congress, the caps were raised on both areas of spending, allowing for an increase in the Pentagon’s base budget of nearly 7.7 percent, raising it from $496 billion to $548 billion in fiscal year 2016.

The increase in military spending is being driven overwhelmingly by the procurement of new weapons systems aimed at preparing for war against another major power; in the first instance, Russia and China.

The budget provides $5.7 billion for the Air Force to buy another 44 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from Lockheed Martin, continuing the most expensive arms acquisition program in US history.

The Navy is moving ahead with a program to build 12 new nuclear missile-firing submarines at the cost of $6 billion each. The overall plan for building battle force ships presented by the Navy calls for the spending of over a third more in the next 30 years than was spent in the last 30, with estimated annual costs at over $20 billion.

The Pentagon budget also includes nearly $11 billion for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, comprising some 71,000 commandos deployed in some 80 countries. To augment the reach of these killer squads, the budget includes funding for the purchase of a new generation of Reaper armed drone aircraft used in “targeted killings,” i.e., assassinations.

Also included in the NDAA is another $300 million in military aid to the right-wing, anti-Russian regime in Ukraine for the continued US training of security forces, including battalions drawn directly from neo-fascist forces, and the provision of “lethal assistance such as anti-armor weapon systems, mortars, crew-served weapons and ammunition, grenade launchers and ammunition, and small arms and ammunition.”

Significantly, the Pentagon funding bill includes provisions that shift substantial control over weapons programs and acquisitions from the secretary of defense to the uniformed chiefs of the armed services, further eroding civilian control over the military.

The rise in the Pentagon’s budget is being initiated under conditions in which US military spending is already nearly three times as much as China’s and more than seven times as much Russia’s. In 2015, Washington spent more on its military than the next seven countries—five of them US allies—combined.

The only explanation for such a build-up is that US imperialism is preparing for a major escalation of military aggression on a world scale.

This eruption of US militarism goes hand-in-hand with the assault on basic democratic principles and rights, making the provisions to maintain the Guantanamo prison camp a logical corollary to the Pentagon legislation.

Much has been made in the media about Obama confronting a challenge to his “legacy” in failing to remove the Guantanamo provisions from the spending bill.

On his first full day in office, the Democratic president announced an executive order promising to close down the prison camp within one year. This will be the sixth Pentagon budget in a row that he has signed precluding such a shutdown. The restrictions were first put in place by a Democratic-controlled House and Senate.

The latest legislation not only bans the transfer of prisoners to the US, but also prohibits their being sent to third countries, including Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia.

Approaching the end of his second term, Obama has yet to present any plan to Congress for closing Guantanamo, and there is speculation that he could issue an executive order claiming the power as “commander in chief” to determine the fate of the detainees without congressional approval.

Given that Obama has submitted to congressional restrictions for the past seven years, it is questionable whether the courts would uphold such an order. Federal courts recently blocked his executive order limiting deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Moreover, it is highly unlikely that Obama would do anything regarding Guantanamo in the run-up to the November 2016 election.

There are still 112 detainees held in Guantanamo’s cells. Over 800 men have been incarcerated in the prison camp since it opened in 2001 as an offshore facility where those abducted by the US military and intelligence agencies could be arbitrarily held without charges or trials and subjected to interrogation under torture.

Only ten of those currently held are facing criminal charges before military commissions. The other 102 have never been charged, while some have been held for 13 years. Of them, 53 have been cleared for release for the last five years, most of them Yemenis, but they remain imprisoned even though Washington admits they pose no security threat.

Among the others are the so-called “forever prisoners,” whom the US cannot bring to trial in any civilian court because the alleged evidence against them was gained through torture and other illegal methods.

Obama’s proposal is to transfer these prisoners to a US maximum security prison, effectively a “Guantanamo North.” Alternative sites have been indicated in Leavenworth, Kansas, Colorado and elsewhere.

Obama’s claims that such a transfer would somehow be consistent with American “values” are utterly hypocritical. In reality, it would have the effect of further institutionalizing an illegal system of arbitrary imprisonment on US soil, setting the precedent for the indefinite detention of American citizens as well.

GOP voters want an apocalypse

The truth about Trump & Carson’s success

We’ve long since passed the time when Trump & Carson could be written off. Something’s different this election

GOP voters want an apocalypse: The truth about Trump & Carson's success
(Credit: AP/Mark J. Terrill)

For the last couple of years, the conventional wisdom has been that the Republican Party potential presidential field was an embarrassment of riches. Their “bench” was so chock full of executive talent, they barely had room for them all. This was always discussed in the context of the Democratic Party’s sad little group of ancient mariners who might well have already been set on the ice floe in an earlier time.

It’s interesting how that’s unfolding. None of the governors are panning out. Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose record running one of the biggest state’s successfully on a Republican platform was no help, dropped out first; followed by the union slaying Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Both had been highly touted as excellent presidential material based on their records. None of the current and former governors, from Bush to Kasich, Christie, Huckabee, Jindal and Pataki, have caught fire either. Between them, they have decades of executive experience and yet they can’t get any momentum. This flies in the face of everything we’ve ever heard about the Republican reverence for state government, for executive experience and the ability to get results from Republican policies.

For a long time it was assumed that Senators were unsuited for the task of the presidency, what with their lack experience “running things.” Not that this stopped them from running for president, but it hadn’t escaped anyone’s notice that until 2008 the last Senator to become president had been elected in 1960. Barack Obama broke that long streak and the Republicans have a handful of Senators to choose from in 2016. Two of the four in the race, Rubio and Cruz, seem to be doing slightly better than the governors, and are at this point seen as “establishment” alternatives, even though neither of them are polling at more than 11 percent. The third, Rand Paul, once touted as the leader of a new libertarian, isolationist Republican Party, has turned out to be irrelevant. The fourth, Senator Lindsay Graham, is a joke.

There you have the vaunted GOP bench — the well-prepared, highly qualified, totally experienced group of veterans, any one of whom the country was supposed to be able to see as president. And Republican primary voters can’t stand any of them. They are, instead, enthralled with two men who have never held public office, and seem not to even understand our system of government or care how it works.

The Hill asked some Republican strategists to explain this phenomenon:

“It’s a different test this time around,” said GOP strategist David Payne. “Experience, executive experience, these aren’t the tests. It’s about the right ideas and the right temperament and coming off as tough. You see how important the debates have been. Style and presentation matter more than ever, more even than if you were a great leader in the past.” […]

“Republicans this year don’t want managers, they want transformers,” conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace, a Cruz supporter, told The Hill. “They don’t want reform, they want revolution. They don’t want a better government, they want a new government. The ground has shifted and the grassroots conservatives have taken the establishment’s preeminence away.”

Say what you will about Trump and Carson, they are both entertaining. But it’s the revolutionary aspect of their candidacies that’s interesting.

It’s not exactly a surprise that Republican voters hate government. It’s been their number one organizing principle for years. In fact, the Sainted Ronald Reagan himself was known for his saying “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” And we know they hate liberals. They have spent decades denigrating the philosophy,the ideology and even the word itself. But until now they haven’t hated the Republican Party. And boy do they hate it.

What seems to have happened is that GOP base voters feel betrayed and disillusioned because they voted for a Republican Congress and that Congress has failed to deliver the agenda on which they ran. First of all, they failed to remove President Obama from office, either through impeachment or at the ballot box in 2012. They also failed to repeal Obamacare,”close the borders,” ban abortion, stop gay marriage, or end political correctness, just for starters.

Someone forgot to tell Republican voters that there are three branches of government regulated by checks and balances, and other people in their own party, as well as the opposition party, who have different agendas competing with their own. If you listen to right-wing media and follow what’s being said in the conservative bubble, it’s understandable. They were told that they won a huge mandate, and now they quite logically blame the people who have been making promises they don’t keep.

When they listen to these professional politicians running for their party’s nomination, they just hear more of the same — and they don’t want to hear it anymore. They want someone who will assure them that this creaky government system with all those checks and balances, and all the resultant gridlock, will not be a hinderance to achievement of their agenda. They are tired of waiting. And right now they have two presidential candidates who are promising a different way of doing things.

Donald Trump is running to be a strongman. It’s all about him “getting the job done” because he’s smarter and tougher than everyone else. (This is a familiar archetype and Trump’s specific relationship to it is fascinatingly explored in this piece by Rick Perlstein, called “Donald Trump and the F-word.”) Ben Carson is a little bit more complicated. He’s running as a quasi-religious leader who will be able to overcome all these obstacles through the same miraculous process that has characterized his life story. (The recent questions about some details of that very famous life story have only resulted in adding martyrdom to his mystique.) In both cases, the people who like them are not merely attracted to the fact that these men are outsiders, but also by qualities that will ostensibly allow them to transcend the normal process of democratic government. Despite their professions of love for the constitution, these voters no longer believe in the system of government that constitution sets forth.

It’s still possible that these voters are simply “sending a message” to the powers that be, telling them that they are at the ends of their ropes. That’s certainly what the establishment hopes is happening:

Republicans like Cullen, who says he cannot support Trump, Carson or Cruz, say it’s still early, and the party will rally behind they types of candidates it’s nominated in the past.

“Some of these guys still look like summer love affairs to me, even if we’re well into the fall now,” he said. “I still think voters will want look to take the polished young man home that they can show off to mom and dad.”

That courtly tone sounds as out of place in the Trump era as if he were speaking Elizabethan english. These Republican voters have been listening to talk radio and watching Fox news and reading thousands of Tea Party emails for years and they want a man of action. When they talk about revolution it’s not the white wigged American style. They’re thinking of something much more “top-down.”


Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Washington’s big lie of “peace and stability” in Asia

USS Lassen (DDG 82), (R) transits in formation with ROKS Sokcho (PCC 778) during exercise Foal Eagle 2015, in waters east of the Korean Peninsula, in this March 12, 2015, handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Wright/Handout via Reuters

10 November 2015

In the wake of last month’s provocative intrusion by the destroyer, the USS Lassen, into Chinese-claimed territory in the South China Sea, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter toured Asia last week seeking to further consolidate Washington’s military alliances and strategic partnerships against China.

As he deliberately stoked up tensions with China, Carter’s constant refrain was that the United States remained a force for peace and stability. Standing on the deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the South China Sea, he declared the aircraft carrier was a symbol of the “stabilising influence that the United States has had in this region of the world for decades.” The US military build-up in Asia, or “rebalance,” was “intended to keep it going,” he insisted.

No one should be taken in by this big lie. “Stability,” in Washington’s lexicon, is synonymous with American dominance, which it has always pursued in Asia and the world through ruthless and violent means. Indeed US imperialism announced its entry onto the world stage with its victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the brutal suppression of resistance to its colonial rule in the Philippines, which left hundreds of thousands of dead.

The United States secured its hegemony in Asia through the defeat of Japanese imperialism in World War II. By the early 1920s, the two powers were already colliding over which would predominate in China. Whereas the US had demanded an “open door” policy, as the best means for asserting its own interests, Japan, plunged into economic crisis by the Great Depression, invaded Manchuria in 1931, then China as a whole in 1937 to secure control over its resources. The Pacific War, which cost the lives of millions, ended with the US dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These terrible crimes were designed, above all, to send a message to the Soviet Union and the world that the US would use any and all means in pursuit of global dominance.

The ability of US imperialism to restabilise world capitalism in the wake of World War II, and establish its hegemonic position, rested on two main factors: firstly, its overriding economic strength and, secondly, on the political treachery of the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy, which betrayed the post-war revolutionary movements of the working class and oppressed masses. Nowhere did the United States face greater challenges than in Asia, where mass anti-colonial movements, of which the 1949 Chinese Revolution was part, threatened capitalist rule throughout the region.

Far from being a force for peace in Asia, US imperialism fought two protracted wars in the 1950s and 60s. The Korean War (June 1950–July 1953), launched by the US to defend the right-wing pro-US dictatorship of Syngman Rhee, devastated the Korean Peninsula and resulted in millions of deaths. The military stalemate ended in 1953, not with a peace treaty, but with a truce, leaving a continuing legacy of profound instability. The US war in Vietnam and the rest of Indo China (November 1955–April 1975), left four million dead, following years of indiscriminate US bombing raids, the utilisation of napalm and other atrocities. It concluded in a humiliating US withdrawal and the collapse of its puppet regime.

For decades, US imperialism maintained its position in Asia through CIA intrigues and by propping up police state regimes in Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. In Indonesia, a CIA-orchestrated coup (1965–66) installed the bloody Suharto dictatorship, and resulted in the slaughter of at least 500,000 people.

The US only finally “stabilised” Asia through the deal struck by President Nixon with Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1972. Precisely when its defeat in Vietnam threatened to undermine US influence throughout the region, the Chinese Stalinists threw Washington a lifeline. The US-China rapprochement laid the basis for capitalist restoration in China and the conversion of much of the region into a vast source of cheap labour for global transnational corporations.

The globalisation of production since the late 1970s, however, and the rise of China as the world’s pre-eminent cheap labour platform, have profoundly altered international economic and strategic relations. While China is not an imperialist power, the very size of its economy and the extent of its economic and trade relations in Asia and around the world constitute a challenge to American global supremacy that Washington cannot tolerate.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, US imperialism has resorted more and more aggressively to the use of military force to overcome its historic economic decline. In response to the 2008–09 global financial crisis, the Obama administration placed China firmly in its cross-hairs. Its “pivot to Asia” formally announced in November 2011, is a comprehensive diplomatic, economic and military strategy aimed at subjugating the world’s second largest economy to Washington’s interests, through war if necessary.

Over the past five years, the US and its allies have transformed what were obscure, regional territorial disputes in the South China and East China Seas into dangerous flashpoints for war. Throughout the region, the Washington has been engaged in what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “forward-deployed diplomacy” to undercut Chinese influence. Its diplomatic intrigues are backed by a military build-up that will station 60 percent of all American naval and air force assets in the Indo-Pacific by 2020.

The historical record of US imperialism in Asia is a sobering reminder that it will stop at nothing, including the deployment of nuclear weapons, to maintain its dominant position. Its actions have placed the entire region on a hair trigger; any mistake or miscalculation in the South China Sea, or an incident in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, could escalate into a far broader conflict between nuclear armed powers.

The only social force on the planet capable of halting this reckless drive to war is the international working class, through the building of a unified, socialist anti-war movement aimed at putting an end to the outmoded profit system, which is the source of war.

Peter Symonds