Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Palin Attacks 'The Corporatist Agenda'

February 9, 2011, 9:00 a.m.
[As you may have noticed, while I'm teaching Sports Law, the blogging has had to be cut back to something more like once a week than once a day. But there may be occasional exceptions. This is one.]

Progressives and Conservatives Take Note: Palin's Going Populist
(bought to you by*)

Sarah Palin had some things to say at the President Reagan Tribute the other day that deserve more attention and reflection than they've received so far -- by those of every political persuasion in America, whether Palin normally causes them to swoon or to sputter incoherently.

New York's Boss Tweed used to say, "I don't care who does the electing, just so long as I do the nominating." It ought to be a motivator to your active participation in the caucuses and primaries of your party of choice.

In my case, it causes me to think carefully about the least worst candidates of both major political parties. One will win. If it's not going to be my favorite, I can at least hope, and work to ensure, that both of the nominees are competent enough to function as President.

To remove any possible question in your mind, Sarah Palin is not now my first choice among the possible Republican nominees. Most of her positions I disagree with, many I find uninformed, and -- as many conservatives also believe -- I don't think she now has what it takes to function effectively as President.

But I hope it is true that I have never been one to dismiss entirely all of anyone's views with ad hominem comments. I find life more interesting and rewarding when I look for agreements with, and new ideas from, those individuals my acquaintances and colleagues may be rejecting out of hand.

And so it was that when I heard a quote from Sarah Palin the other day I made a mental note to try to track down the source sometime. It wasn't easy to find, but I came upon it this morning.

It was from a talk she gave at a dinner tribute to President Reagan at the Reagan Ranch Center museum in Santa Barbara, Friday evening [Feb. 4, 2011], sponsored by Young America’s Foundation (unaffiliated with the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley). Jeff Zeleny, "Palin Keeps Position Clear and Intentions Vague," The Caucus/New York Times, February 5, 2011. (The date marks the occasion of what would have been Reagan's 100th birthday.) And see, Jeff Zeny, "Palin, Rallying Base, Paints Dark Picture of Obama’s Policies," February 6, 2011, p. A19.

Her speech contained much with which I would disagree, expressions I would not have used, and conclusions that I might think don't logically follow. But that does not surprise me, and should not surprise you.

What did surprise me was what she said with which I totally agree.

By way of introduction, background and glossary, here are my definitions of some relevant terms:
Words like "socialism," "communism" and "fascism" are seldom used anymore in their original, technical, literal sense. They are swear words, words of derision carelessly thrown at anything one does not like.

That's too bad.

"From each according to ability; to each according to need" [Karl Marx, "Critique of the Gotha Program" (1875)] -- "communism" -- can be applied to professional sports' revenue-sharing schemes designed to keep the teams more or less competitive, and the games more interesting. It also applies to the "negative income tax" proposals of conservative economist Milton Friedman and conservative President Richard Nixon.

"Socialism" -- government owned and operated enterprises, such as the Interstate Highway system, public schools, libraries and parks (among other things) -- also works pretty well for us.

"Capitalism" -- free private enterprise, the marketplace -- rewards the successful entrepreneur (sometimes, as with a Bill Gates, overwhelmingly so), and leaves those who fail to the bankruptcy courts, with nothing but the opportunity to start all over again.

What do you call a system of joint government-corporate partnerships -- "heads I win, tails you lose;" "If I make a profit I get to keep it; if I have big losses the taxpayers will give me a bailout"? Subsidies, tax breaks, government contracts, tariffs, bailouts, price supports are often just rewards for major campaign contributions. Those who remember World War II will identify government by interlocking relationships between corporate and government interests as what we then called "fascism." (If the government owns and operates an automobile manufacturing company that's "socialism"; if it provides a private, for-profit car company a "bailout," that's "fascism.")
Enough of the definitions.

The point is, I am a fan of both capitalism and socialism -- as I have defined both, above. I am not a fan of fascism.

More significant for purposes of this blog entry, it turns out that Sarah Palin is not a fan of fascism either. So on that proposition we agree.

Here is what she had to say -- in words very close to what I was writing about yesterday in "Super Boosters' Super Bowl; Champions' Wins Can Be Taxpayers' Losses; Lessons for Iowa," February 8, 2011, and numerous prior Web pages, newspaper columns, and blog entries.
This is not an economic policy. . . . It is the road to ruin. It’s crony capitalism, too, on steroids. The corporatist agenda — big government, big business collaboration, with powerful friends in DC who can afford to hire the lobbyists to grease the wheels of government in their favor for these investments.

In the interest of certain special interests, the government invests our money in technologies, in industries that venture capitalists tell us ‘no, those are nonstarters.’ but they’ll provide lucrative returns for favored corporate interests with major stakes in these areas. . . .

This collusion, this isn’t competition. It’s crony capitalism and it stifles our economy. It stifles the free market . . .. Government makes it increasingly impossible for anyone but cronies to get ahead. . . .

And ["the little guy"] that’s who is left out in the cold today. Big business, big labor, big finance — they have seats at the table. The little guy doesn’t. But we’re the ones left holding the tab. We’re paying the bill. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. This is not the way that it must be. American exceptionalism is not exceptionally big government with a command and control industrial policy. . . .

History has proven again and again when government picks the winners and losers, we are stuck with the losers. And we the taxpayers subsidize the failures. . . .

Do we still believe in . . . free-market capitalism?

Or do we surrender to big government and a corporatism agenda?. . .

We must be as motivated and optimistic as our parents and our grandparents were, many of whom started off with nothing and yet they were able to build a fulfilled life by the sweat of their brow. . . .

They didn’t demand bailouts.
Text of Governor Palin's Keynote Address: Tribute to President Reagan, Feb. 4, 2011.

So why are these excerpts from this transcript of her talk of vital importance to what I described, above, as "those of every political persuasion in America, whether Palin normally causes them to swoon or to sputter incoherently"?

Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004), posits the thesis that the big business wing of the conservatives (those who advocate and practice what I have defined, above, as "fascism") have managed to bring along millions of voters, willing to vote against their own best interests (the funding of social programs and regulations designed to protect them), by talking about (while doing little or nothing about) "God, guns and gays" (opposition to abortion, gay marriage, immigration, and handgun control).

This has been accomplished, in part, by attacking "big government" and "taxation" while remaining eerily silent about the very linkage that big business has with that "big government," and the cash transfers it receives from the taxpayers who pay that "taxation."

So the big business, big money, funders of the conservative coalition should be (and probably are already, as they watch the events in Cairo unfold) a trifle concerned about Palin's turn toward an anti-fascism populism.

Similarly, the Palin-haters -- and progressives concerned about the rest of what she says, and might do in office -- should be wary of the consequences that might flow from a Palin-as-Populist campaign. It wouldn't take that much to expand the Tea Party's appeal to those who ought to have been a solid part of the Democratic Party's base (e.g., the poor, working poor, working class) -- and were, until the Party turned its back on them in its own search for corporate dollars.

It's something to think about.

* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source -- even if I have to embed it myself.
-- Nicholas Johnson
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