I just got off the phone with a reporter who wanted my thoughts on the appointment of Bruce Reed as Joe Biden's chief of staff. My first though, sarcastically, was that I wondered whether Bernie Madoff would now be brought in to oversee Consumer Protection... of course, an exaggerated observation but I wonder: Who will speak for the people?
Let's remember who Bruce Reed is. As the past head of the Democratic Leadership Council--which, as many of us know, was the intellectual (a word I use loosely) center for the Clinton view of economics--he presided over the advancement of an economic philosophy that has failed, if we judge failure as creating an economy that lifts the middle class and provides for prosperity.
Here is Bruce Reed and Al From attacking the idea of a big health care reform from 2003:
Every primary season unleashes the pander virus. Dick Gephardt's $2.5-trillion health care plan is the latest case in point. While Gephardt is right to base his candidacy on "big ideas," his health plan only underscores the folly of appealing to Democratic activists instead of the Democratic rank-and-file. When activists think big, they always do so with the rank-and-file's money.
By all means, Democrats should have the courage to tackle big problems and take on entrenched interests. The Bush years have created a long list of challenges the country must address -- restoring an ethic of responsibility in Washington and in corporate America; asking more Americans, especially young Americans, to serve; championing the values and economic interests of the forgotten middle class instead of protecting wealth and privilege at every turn.
The way for Democrats to recapture the high ground and the White House is not to talk big, but to be genuinely bold. We don't need another president who is willing to give away money the country doesn't have. [emphasis added]
The "folly of appealing to Democratic activists instead of the Democratic rank-and-file" and "We don't need another president who is willing to give away money"--these are Republican talking points.
Reed's view was also clear about who were "real" Democrats:
What activists like Dean call the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party is an aberration: the McGovern-Mondale wing, defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist, interest-group liberalism at home.
The real tradition of the Democratic Party is grounded in expanding opportunity and economic growth, increasing trade, standing up for a strong national defense and for America's interests in the world, and strengthening community at home.
This is important--because the above are Republican talking points as well. Those of who are progressives or liberals--or apparently anyone who is either "weak" or "elitist"--actually do want economic opportunity, increased trade and strong defense and strong communities.
It's simply that we strongly disagree that so-called "free trade" (which the DLC has been one of the biggest pimps for in Democratic policy circles) brings economic opportunity. The opposite: it is based on lowering wages around the world. But it is From and Reed who are the elitists because they can't see what so-called "free trade" has done--they've never had a factory job or a manufacturing job or a job that required punching a clock.
We also don't agree that a strong defense or America's interests are equal to funding two immoral wars--one of which is not solidly Barack Obama's war--and supporting bloated militarism.
As for strengthening community, it does not mean having a faith-based initiative. It does mean supporting the growth of unions--none of which From-Reed supported and, in fact, like Clinton, they both have vacillated between a tolerance of unions for the campaign cash labor delivered or an outright disdain.
But, let's jump forward--Reed's most recent assignment, we know, was as executive director of the Catfood Commission--the National Commission on
Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. And, as I explain in "It's Not Raining, We're Getting Peed On: the Scam of the Deficit Crisis", it's a Commission that was obsessed with a made-up, phony crisis.
There is no debt-deficit "crisis"--we do have a huge crisis in the country, none of which Reed seemed to recognize in his stewardship of the Catfood Commission:
• For thirty years, Wall Street drained the foundation of the American Dream, figuring out ways to rip millions of good-paying jobs out of the soul of the country, using leveraged buy-outs to boost stock prices and enrich CEOs under the cover of the "free market" and "efficiency".
For thirty years, corporations have shipped jobs abroad, moving millions of good-paying jobs to places where human slavery cost pennies.
• For thirty year, both parties have slowly, but surely, picked apart a progressive taxation system, shifting the burden of providing for a decent society on to the backs of the poor. As I wrote in 2009 in the opening sentences of "The Audacity of Greed": The United States of America has just lived through the greatest looting of money in its history, a vast robbery that began in the late 1970s and has stretched to the present day. The perpetrators of this grand robbery didn't just steal a few possessions, or a bit of cash. Instead, they drained the economy of trillions of dollars, in the process skulking off with a vast fortune that defied imagination while leaving millions of people without jobs, in poverty or without their life savings".
• For thirty years, political leaders have sent our brave men and women into dumb and immoral foreign military catastrophes--for the sake of oil and sometimes lesser reasons--that have cost us trillions of dollars, not to mention hundreds of thousands of human lives and the shredding of the country's image around the world. Even in the absence of active military conflict by the country's troops, billions of dollars were, and are, poured into a wasteful, bloated military complex--which often, then, forgets the veterans who carry the day-to-day burden in the field and, then, return home with shattered bodies and damaged minds.
Except for a small, greedy elite, most Americans have in fact been making hard choices each and every day for the past several decades. They have not been spending their cash like drunken sailors on luxury and pleasure while ignoring basic needs.
So, now, where does this put us? We now have a chief of staff for the president (Bill Daley) and a chief of staff for the vice-president who are of the same mindset--let's make sure that we keep the corporate world happy because (a) they are us and (b) they are the rich vein we need to tap for fundraising money. And who both represent a FAILED economic strategy.
There have been some who have said, "oh, pshaw, these people will just be there to implement the visions of the president and vice-president". That simply is not reality: the gatekeepers--the chiefs of staff--decide what paper their principles see and who gets into to see the principles, particularly when the final decisions are made.
So, now, back to the snarky title. Outlandish, yes. But, really, does anyone think Consumer Protection will fare any better?
Who will speak for the people?
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