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Category: General

Where Do the Democrats Go?

[ 293 ] January 20, 2017 |

poverty picture lbj

I don’t agree with everything in here and you probably won’t either, but this is a good summary of the incredible challenges Democrats face, with Obama’s disastrous strategy on building local and state parties, no obvious leaders in the face of Clinton’s shocking loss, gerrymandering, Emperor Tangerine and his tweets, and the 2018 election getting closer every day. Of course people thought the Republicans were basically dead in 2009 and, well, that didn’t happen. And the grassroots actions over the ACA, challenging Republicans at town hall meetings and other public events, is already leading to some interesting things. But this is one hell of a challenge the Democrats face. And the stakes are only the future of democracy and justice in the United States.


The lives of others

[ 151 ] January 20, 2017 |

Ten days before the 2016 presidential election, the FBI attempted what turned out to be a successful coup d’ etat.

In the comments to Scott’s post clarifying exactly how a domestic intelligence agency threw an election by choosing to intervene against one candidate, when it had vastly more significant information at its disposal it could have used to intervene against the candidate’s opponent, MDrew quotes Scott and then asks the following question:

Trump is not a legitimate president and should not be treated as such.

Very honest question. How, exactly, is this done, concretely?

I have a rough idea with regard to Democrats in Washington, though would appreciate clarification.

But how is this done among the rest of us, exactly?

It’s a good and important question.  I’m going to try to give only the beginnings of an answer.

First, it’s important to internalize the reality of what has happened.  Rewenzo ends his/her excellent summary of the current state of affairs by noting that “this is the second straight Republican president who was awarded the presidency by an organ of the state, and not by voters.”

The theft of the 2016 election by the FBI was, however, exponentially worse than the theft of the 2000 election by the SCOTUS.

In 2000, the relevant state organ did not interfere with the election until after the fact.  This is a crucial distinction.  A legitimate election actually took place, although the candidate who actually won the vote was denied office by ex post facto intervention.  As bad as that was, it wasn’t nearly as bad as immensely powerful state actors attempting (successfully it turned out) to rig the outcome ahead of time, via an equally illegitimate intervention into the electoral process.  The latter act means that no legitimate election ever took place — only something that looked at the time like a legitimate election.

Furthermore, the 2000 election was, legitimately, extremely close.  The 2016 election was not close: Clinton got nearly three million more votes, and “lost” only because the FBI found a way to detonate successfully the unexploded bomb that is (or was) our electoral college system, via a grossly unethical and probably illegal ex ante intervention, that beyond any reasonable doubt threw the electoral college to the candidate who lost the popular vote by a large margin.

In short, Trump’s presidency is, from both a democratic and procedural standpoint, no more legitimate than the Pinochet regime in Chile, or the Ulbricht regime in East Germany.

So, first things first: figuring out how to live in a place that as of today resembles at a very fundamental level East Germany in 1951 or Chile in 1973 requires coming to grips that this is where we live now.  (Obviously there are still various differences between these places.  For example I can still publish this post.)   Where we live now means that the appropriate attitude of patriotic citizens is one of resistance to the regime: not merely resistance to its particular political goals and initiatives, but resistance to its purported legitimacy.  How is the latter sort of resistance carried out?  That will depend entirely on the particular position of each individual who is part of the resistance.  But the first step is to recognize the political and social reality of our present situation.  Suggestions for further steps are most welcome.


This Day in Labor History: January 20, 1920

[ 10 ] January 20, 2017 |


On January 20, 1920, Filipino sugar workers on Oahu, Hawaii, went on strike to demand higher pay. Japanese workers soon joined them and this multiracial strike led to minimal victory for workers and, even rarer, a cross-racial strike with significant solidarity that helped create that victory.

Hawaii became a target of U.S. imperialism from almost the moment that American missionaries arrived there in the early 19th century. Often from middle class families from the Northeast with close ties to early industrialism, the missionaries wrote home to their families, suggesting they invest in Hawaii. Soon, capitalists like Sanford Dole were dominating the Hawaiian economy, leading to declining power for the Hawaiian monarchy, the displacement of the islands’ indigenous people, and the growth of American imperialism. After the Civil War, the move to get the U.S. government to annex Hawaii grew. In 1893, the planters overthrew Queen Liliuokalani and assumed they would become part of the U.S. But Grover Cleveland opposed annexation and so they had to wait until William McKinley became president. Finally, Hawaii became an American colony in 1898.

All of this required a much larger labor force than the indigenous Hawaiians could provide. So labor contractors began to look abroad to import labor. At the same time, thousands of Japanese were migrating to the United States. Many of them ended up in Hawaii working in the sugar plantations. The Filipinos, which had no tradition of migration to the U.S. while it was a Spanish colony, became a major target for agricultural contractors, especially after the combination of whites in California freaking out about Japanese immigration combined with Japanese imperial ambitions to shut off Japanese migration with the Gentlemen’s Agreement in 1907. With the Chinese Exclusion Act ensuring that no Chinese came into the U.S., west coast and Hawaiian farmers looked to the Philippines for their new source of cheap Asian labor. Smaller numbers of Portuguese also arrived to work in the sugar fields, and native-born Hawaiians also worked there, as well as small numbers of Chinese, Spaniards, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Koreans.

Conditions on the plantations were hard. Until 1900, many of the workers were prisoners. There were also disparate wage rates due to race, with Portuguese and Puerto Ricans receiving higher wages than the Japanese. There was a 1909 strike by the Japanese workers for equal wages. It was after this that the planters started actively recruiting the Filipinos. Workers were often not paid their wages until after the harvest, a common tactic used to reduce labor mobility.

The polyglot plantations worked well for the planters. With the workers divided by ethnicity, cross-racial solidarity, not to mention basic communication, was hard. When one group went on strike, the others were there to use as strikebreakers. But during World War I, conditions got worse. Rising prices because of the war without rising wages led to widespread destitution among the workers. The Filipinos and Japanese began to organize together, although in separate organizations. But by late 1919, the Filipino Labor Union and the Federation of Japanese Labor were working closely together. Led by Pablo Manlapit, a plantation worker who had arrived in Hawaii in 1910, the Filipinos realized they would not succeed without uniting with the Japanese. The Filipinos led the strike, walking out on January 20. The Japanese followed on February 1, although many Japanese workers struck earlier. They demanded wage hikes, an 8-hour day, and regular bonus payments for higher production that would pay 75 percent of it each month, with only 25 percent withheld until the end of the harvest. The planters did grant them the bonus plan but refused to address the other conditions. The workers had already decided that if the planters did not meet all their demands, they would strike. Soon, there were 8300 workers on strike. About 5000 were Japanese and 3000 Filipinos, with 300 from the other nationalities.

The planters responded by evicting everyone from their company houses, over 12,000 Filipinos, of which over 4000 were children. By this time, the Japanese generally lived in independent housing.The Japanese were better prepared for the strike as the union had built up a fairly sizable savings to buy food. The Filipinos assumed their community would feed the strikers but that did not work out well. The Japanese then used their money to help the Filipinos, another example of the cross-racial solidarity that marked this strike. To make things worse, the Spanish Flu whipped through the strike, affecting a lot more people than it usually would have because they were in crowded conditions in tents. About 140 strikers died during the strike.

It was a hard strike. Whites worked with Japanese elites to attempt to undermine the strike. Happening during the Red Scare, the U.S. government worried about radical communist agendas and red-baited the strikers, as well as fearing it as an extension of growing Japanese imperialism that threatened their own imperialist possessions. They tried to split the workers. Rev. Albert Palmer, leader of the anti-strike movement, called it, “a nationalistic Japanese movement, using the Filipinos as tools, but aiming at Japanese control of the sugar industry and the islands.” The Honolulu Star-Bulletin called for racial revenge, writing “Americans do not take kindly to the spectacle of several thousand alien Asiatics parading through the streets with banners flaunting their hatred of Americanism and American institutions and insulting the memory of the greatest American president since Washington.” Said banners had pictures of Abraham Lincoln, as the strikers were claiming Americanism for themselves and comparing themselves with black slaves. Manlapit did call for an end to the Filipino strike on February 9. Perhaps he was bribed. But the rank and file stayed out on strike. About 1000 of the strikers eventually went back to work. And the planters were able to hire 2000 strikebreakers. Still, they lost $12 million during the strike.

The workers finally won the strike on July 1, when the planters agreed to a 50 percent pay raise and greater benefits, although the full pay and benefits would not start for another six months, leading to disappointment to many workers. And in fact, it was only a moderate victory for the workers, as they were suffering serious losses in morale and in keeping labor out of the fields after April 1. Nonetheless, it was a remarkable strike among people who had not worked together in the past.

I borrowed from Moon-Ho Jung, “Revolutionary Currents: Interracial Solidarities, Imperial Japan, and the U.S. Empire,” in Daniel E. Bender and Jana K. Lipman, Making the Empire Work: Labor & United States Imperialism, in the writing of this post.

This is the 207th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

James Comey’s Coup D’Etat

[ 146 ] January 20, 2017 |


Some desperate leaks before Trump shuts the investigation down:

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.

The continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him. As president, Mr. Trump will oversee those agencies and have the authority to redirect or stop at least some of these efforts.


The F.B.I. is leading the investigations, aided by the National Security Agency, the C.I.A. and the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit. The investigators have accelerated their efforts in recent weeks but have found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the officials said. One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.


Representatives of the agencies involved declined to comment. Of the half-dozen current and former officials who confirmed the existence of the investigations, some said they were providing information because they feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the cases.


And it’s not just that the FBI chose to inform the public about one, and only one, ongoing investigation. The investigation that the FBI did the inform the public about 1)served the longstanding partisan interests of the director and 2)was utterly trivial, and in the most decisive intervention there was absolutely no relevant new information about it. There is no possible justification for violating norms and rules to inform the public about one and not the other except to put a thumb on the scale for Trump.

Let’s put this simply and clearly: the FBI stole the election, on behalf of the minority candidate. Trump is not a legitimate president and should not be treated as such. And let us note as well that the media outlets who chose to give Comey’s letter saturation coverage are accessories after the fact.

…rewenzo in comments:

1) Our domestic security forces were investigating both Clinton and Trump

2) Clinton was being investigated for maybe improperly storing work emails on a private server, which is a trivial offense. Not only was it trivial, but by the summer the FBI and DOJ had publicly concluded that charges could not be brought, meaning the investigation was for all intents and purposes closed.

3) Trump was being investigated for being in cahoots with a foreign dictatorship which was hacking Clinton’s campaign, and this investigation is still ongoing even as he is sworn in to office.

4) The FBI at no point mentioned to anyone they were investigating Trump, and even went out of their way to leak to the media that Trump was not being investigated.

5) The Director of the FBI chose to inform the American people by letter to Congress (i.e. the opposite of a leak), in late October (the platonic ideal of an October surprise, so you know it was intentional) that they had found troubling new evidence in the investigation of Clinton which required the investigation to resume.

6) This letter was a violation of (a) longstanding FBI policy; (b) longstanding DOJ rules designed specifically for the purpose of preventing the FBI from interfering in elections and (c) the Hatch Act.

7) The FBI at the time had no way of knowing that the emails were relevant, and indeed, from all indications, must have known they were probably irrelevant.

8) The emails were quickly and easily determined to be irrelevant.

9) The FBI was in communication with members of the Trump campaign about the Clinton emails and had given Giuliani a heads up that they were going to leak the story

10) The FBI knew Clinton was being hacked by Russia, and were also investigating Trump on suspicion of being involved but did virtually nothing to warn Clinton – essentially left a voicemail.

Conservatives were making fun of John Lewis because it turned out he boycotted Bush’s first inaugural too. But the joke is on Republicans, who literally cannot win presidential elections in a legitimate fashion. This is the second straight Republican president who was awarded the presidency by an organ of the state, and not by voters.

The ACA and the Republican War on the Arts

[ 145 ] January 19, 2017 |


Repealing the ACA would decimate the lives of musicians who rely on it to stay healthy. This is of course part of the point for Republican “governance” that is launching a head-on attack on the arts.

For much of his life, Andrew Savage, the 30-year-old singer-guitarist for New York indie-rock band Parquet Courts, went without health insurance. The musician suffers from epilepsy and suffers two or three seizures a year, the most severe of which have resulted in head trauma. He quit his day job six years ago to tour with the band, which was just starting to take off, but that meant no insurance to pay for his daily medication. He spent years shuffling payments on credit cards; once, he openly wept when a pharmacist told him a generic drug was available for $40 instead of $400.

The ACA would have helped, but by the time it took effect in 2013, the members of Parquet Courts were big enough, like most successful bands, to form a Limited Liability Company and purchase group insurance. “We were worried that if we got Obamacare, there would be a lot of limitations — the bill, when it was first conceived, was very different from the one that made it through because so many things got taken away from Obama and his original vision of the plan,” Savage says from his Brooklyn home. “Of all the cynical things promised by Donald Trump, this has got to be one of the most scoundrel-ish — this is taking things away from people who definitely need it.”

Even musicians who haven’t purchased insurance through the exchanges have benefited from Obamacare. Insurance companies can no longer raise rates for customers who have pre-existing conditions. That means sick people have an easier time than ever getting coverage.

Members of Drive-By Truckers, the veteran southern-rock band, run an LLC and share a group health-insurance plan. But 52-year-old Patterson Hood, one of the band’s lead singers, says the central Obamacare provision that prevents insurance companies from raising rates due to members’ pre-existing conditions has helped his family immeasurably. His wife and 12-year-old daughter have scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, and his 7-year-old son has growth hormone deficiency that requires an expensive shot every day for the next decade.

“My son’s shots are in the thousands per month. I mean, it’s a lot of money. And we do not have it,” he tells Rolling Stone just before a Conan appearance in Los Angeles. “We’re paying $2,000 a month as it is just for the insurance. I’m lucky I’m gainfully employed — my band, we’re not stars, but we’re successful enough to where I can make ends met. But it terrifies me. It literally woke me up in the middle of the night last night.”

You ain’t the only one Patterson. You ain’t the only one.

But hey, I bet Pat Boone has the best health insurance. And that’s all the music we need in the new White Christian America.

Charlotte School of Law flips off the Obama administration

[ 11 ] January 19, 2017 |

This is one to watch in the first weeks of the Trump regime:

The already-reeling Charlotte School of Law has fired much of its faculty – a possible response to what’s expected to be a significant drop in enrollment when the school reopens next week, the Observer has learned.

Sources said that up to two-thirds of the school’s professors and staff were notified in the past two days. The massive cuts come less than week before the school is supposed to reopen despite crippling financial problems that threaten to overwhelm it.

A fired faculty member who asked not to be named out of concern of retaliation told the Observer that Dean Jay Conison made personal phone calls to the affected staffers starting Wednesday night. Those calls continued Thursday morning, the former faculty member said.

Charlotte, which had its access to federal student loans cut off last month because it was failing to meet even the ABA’s deplorably lax standards, and was also misrepresenting (that’s a nice word for it) to students what their chances of passing the bar were likely to be, was in the midst of negotiating a “teach out” plan with the Department of Education.  This is something the department requires recipients of Title IV loans to do rather than merely leaving current students high and dry when an institution is on the verge of closing its doors. Well current Charlotte students can forget about that now:

The faculty firings are the latest public setback for the uptown, for-profit school. On Wednesday, the federal government announced that negotiations with the school over the return of millions of dollars in student loans have broken down.

In a statement sent to Charlotte School of Law’s students, a top U.S. Department of Education official said his agency and the law school had previously reached an agreement in principle that would have freed up some of the federal loan money in time for the planned start of classes Monday.

Instead, Charlotte School of Law “has since rejected what it had previously accepted and has informed the Department that it will not be accepting the conditions set,” Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said.

Assuming that the Charlotte School of Law reopens, Mitchell’s announcement means the 10-year-old institution – and its estimated 700 students – must press on without the taxpayer-backed federal loans. Last year, those loans totaled almost $50 million for CSL students.

For weeks, school President Chidi Ogene and Conison have been promising students details of alternative loan options to cover tuition and other expenses. Those details still had not been released Wednesday evening. Nor has the schedule of classes for the upcoming semester, students said.

Thursday, Ogene and Conison issued an extraordinary statement in which they accused the Department of Education of breaking the law and violating its own rules by cutting off the school’s access to loans last year.

“It is regrettable that the Department of Education leadership, in the very last days of its tenure, has chosen to jeopardize the future of all our students,” the statement said. “… That is why we will continue to fight aggressively for the interests of everyone [sic] of our students when the new administration takes responsibility for the department.”

School leaders said they are continuing “to work aggressively to protect our students’ rights. As we said in our earlier statements, we are not holding our students’ education hostage to these negotiations.”

It seems pretty obvious what the game is here: instead of closing down in an orderly manner that would allow students a semester short of graduation to get their degrees,* Charlotte (which means Infilaw, which in turn means Sterling Partners) is gambling that Betsy DeVos and her boss have a warm spot in their hypothetical hearts for operations like this one, and that those embers of affection can be ignited into an institution-saving blaze, if the school’s “leadership” insults the outgoing administration egregiously enough, while groveling before the majesty of their new overlords.  We shall see.

*Actually if the school shuts down then students who haven’t yet graduated have all their federal student loans automatically forgiven.  This would of course be by far the best outcome for the vast majority of current Charlotte students.

The Cabinet of Deplorables

[ 21 ] January 19, 2017 |


While Rick Perry discovers just what the hell the department he is going to run actually does and while Ben Carson examines his own stool in wondrous awe, Betsy DeVos utterly embarrasses herself in a hearing that LAMAR! rigged for her. But it doesn’t matter because she bought her position, just like a good Gilded Age capitalist does.

In 1997, she brashly explained her opposition to campaign-finance-reform measures that were aimed at cleaning up so-called “soft money,” a predecessor to today’s unlimited “dark money” election spending. “My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee,” she wrote in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. “I have decided to stop taking offense,” she wrote, “at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.”

Owning the country should provide that. All they need to do know is reintroduce slavery. Which I assume will be on the Republican platform in 2020, assuming they haven’t started the years over at 1 to honor Emperor Tangerine, a la the French Revolution.

Who Knew Racists Were So Sensitive to Ridicule

[ 48 ] January 19, 2017 |


Above: A Dignified Arizona Republican legislator

I guess I wouldn’t think Arizona Republicans would table their bill to ban the teaching of any course they think smacks of racial justice in their state’s public universities because the faint shadow of what used to be The Daily Show ridicules them, but then I wouldn’t have thought they would have elected a fascist reality TV show star to the presidency either.

Donald Trump: Bog-Standard Republican

[ 67 ] January 19, 2017 |


Zeroing out the National Endowment for the Humanities affects me personally as it makes my future research significantly more difficult, but really, there’s nothing in the Trump budget that would be significantly different under Romney or Jeb or whoever.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition.

Similar proposals have in the past won support from Republicans in the House and Senate, who believe they have an opportunity to truly tackle spending after years of warnings about the rising debt.

Of course any talk about Republicans caring about debt is utterly risible, but don’t expect the media to call them out on that. Point being, all of these programs have been hanging by the narrow thread of a Democrat in the Oval Office. No doubt a budget this extreme will receive some level of pushback, but barring Republicans seeing it in their interest to repudiate the Trump administration, which is unlikely, some version of this budget will pass. Maybe the NEH can be saved strictly to fund projects approved by a Koch Brothers-appointed committee.

If the GOP has gone completely off the rails, that means the Democrats have too

[ 162 ] January 19, 2017 |


Not long ago, another magazine asked me to recommend six books that explain something important about American politics. I chose six of my favorites that help elucidate the most important development of the last half-century in American politics: the Republican Party’s embrace of movement conservative ideology. No other major party in the advanced world rejects on principle any proposed tax-revenue increase, or denies the legitimacy of climate science, or opposes universal health care.

And now, the punchline:

I was told my list could not be published because it was too partisan — to be suitable for publication, I would have to swap out some of the books I chose, and substitute some that made the case that the Democratic Party had also gone off the rails, for the sake of balance. I replied that I could not make this change because I don’t believe that the Democratic Party, in its current historical period, has gone off the rails. That doesn’t mean I consider the Democrats flawless, just that they are a normal party with normal problems. It contains a broad range of interest groups and politicians. Sometimes one interest group or another gains too much influence over a particular policy, and sometimes its leading politicians get greedy or make bad political decisions.

The GOP right now is an abnormal party. It does not resemble the major right-of-center parties found in other industrialized democracies. The most glaring manifestation of this is Donald Trump, the flamboyantly ignorant, authoritarian Republican president-elect. But for all his gross unsuitability for public office, Trump also grows out of longstanding trends within his party, which has previously elevated such anti-intellectual figures as George W. Bush and Sarah Palin as plausible leaders of the free world not despite but because of their disdain for empiricism. And it had grown increasingly suspicious of democracy even before a reality television star with a longstanding admiration for strongmen from Russia to Tiananmen Square came upon the scene — which is why the “mainstream” Paul Ryan wing has so willingly suborned Trump’s ongoing violations of governing norms.

It is still fashionable to regard the two parties today as broadly symmetrical to each other — as, indeed, they once were for many decades. But that quaint notion has blinded many of us to the radical turn the Republican Party has taken, and which has brought the American political system to a dangerous point.


Second time as farce

[ 45 ] January 19, 2017 |

In case you haven’t seen the Sunday Herald’s inauguration piss-take.

President Trump: The Inauguration

4pm, BBC One/ STV

After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have dabbled often with alternative history stories – among the most common is the “What If The Nazis Had Won The Second World War” setting – but this huge interactive virtual reality project, which will unfold on TV, in the press, and on Twitter over the next four years, sets out to build an ongoing alternative present. The story begins in a nightmarish version of 2017 in which huge sections of the US electorate have somehow been duped into voting to make Donald Trump president. It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible. Today’s feature-length opener concentrates on the gaudy inauguration of President Trump, and the stirrings of protest and despair surrounding the ceremony, while pundits speculate gravely on what lies ahead. It’s a flawed piece, but a disturbing glimpse of the horrors we could stumble into, if we’re not careful.

Some of TRump’s Scottish neighbors think he’s a bad joke as well.

I’m so old I remember when the rest of the world thought President Reagan was the ne plus ultra of American idiocy.

ACA Repeal Would be A Massive Upward Distribution of Wealth

[ 218 ] January 19, 2017 |


We all know that the Affordable Care Act is a neoliberal bailout of the health insurance industry designed by the Heritage Foundation, Milton Friedman, and George Gilder. And, yet, it’s a somewhat odd brand of neoliberalism:

There is one fact that is both central to the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act yet strangely absent from explicit discussion about it. One of the main ways the ACA makes health insurance affordable is by providing families earning less than 400 percent of the poverty line (i.e., less than $85,000 for a family of three or less than $47,550 for a single person) with tax credits to defray the cost of purchasing insurance. Giving people money helps make things more affordable. President Obama and the congressional Democrats who wrote the law didn’t find the money for those subsidies hidden in a banana stand — they did what Democrats like to do when paying for things and raised taxes on affluent families.

Republicans do not like this idea. They dislike the idea of raising taxes on wealthy households so much that back in 2011, they pushed the country to the brink of defaulting on the national debt rather than agree to rescind George W. Bush’s high-end tax cuts. In December 2012, they tried to insist that they wouldn’t let Obama extend the portion of the Bush tax cuts that everyone (including rich people) got unless he also extended the tax cuts that only rich people got.


This did not play a major overt public role in the 2009-’10 debate about the law, but the Affordable Care Act’s financing rests on a remarkably progressive base. That means that, as the Tax Policy Center has shown, repealing it would shower money on a remarkably small number of remarkably wealthy Americans.

The Affordable Care Act, in summary, taxed the rich in order to provide benefits to the poor and middle class. It did so first by a historic expansion of the public health insurance system for the poor, and second by substantially increasing public expenditure and regulation of the remaining elements of the system.

The answer, of course, is that the Affordable Care Act is not a “neoliberal” program. It is a liberal program squarely within the New Deal/Great Society tradition. It is absolutely true that it was compromised and failed to achieve all that it could have, but this also…places it squarely within the New Deal/Great Society tradition. The New Deal, as most of you know, was very severely compromised by interests that make insurance rentiers look benevolent by comparison. And it’s truly perverse to assert that LBJ is a New Dealer and Obama is not because the former’s health care reform did nothing at all for people who don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, rather that at least making remaining markets fairer and more accessible when the votes to eliminate them aren’t there.

The Obama administration is the third presidency in the New Deal/Great Society tradition to achieve a substantial measure of policy success. It did not reconstruct American politics — the Republican Party is still represented by the Reagan counterrevolution. But, by the same token, the Trump administration will not uproot the New Deal coalition in the Democratic Party. It may do more or less damage to Obama’s policy achievements, but the next Democratic administration will be committed to restoring and expanding them.

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