iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Miles Mogulescu

Miles Mogulescu

Posted: January 4, 2010 03:07 AM

How Does it Feel to be Praised by Bill Kristol for Critiquing Corporatism in the Democratic Party?

What's Your Reaction:

Well, the answer is ambivalent, bemused, but also a bit flattered and, in a certain perverse way, validated in my argument.

In a recent article in The Weekly Standard.Com with the headline "Kristol: Merry Christmas from the Huffington Post!" neoconservative intellectual, and sometimes advisor to George W. Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin, William Kristol writes:

"In the generous and forgiving spirit of Christmas, let me recommend an article from The Huffington Post. It's an interesting piece by Miles Mogulescu, on "The Democrats' Authoritarian Health 'Reform' Bill and the Ascendency of Corporatism in the Democratic Party," and suggests an increasing degree of left-right agreement in diagnosing and disdaining President Obama's corporatist liberalism."

Kristol then provides an extensive redacted quotation from my referenced recent article in The Huffington Post in which I express concern about the growing corporatism in the Democratic Party and the increasing appearance that Obama is as much President of Wall Street as of Main Street; warn that, as a result, Obama may be losing not only the left but the center; and caution that the political effect could be a revival of the seemingly brain-dead Republican Party in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Kristol then quotes the end of my article:

"And Mogulescu concludes:

'I worry for the future not only of progressives and Democrats, but of the country. President Palin in 2012?'

To which I [Kristol] say: From the Huffington Post's website to God's ear!

Merry Christmas!"

To which I respond:

Nominate Palin in 2012?

From the Weekly Standard's website to God's ear!

Happy New Year, Bill!

Aside from Kristol's failure to acknowledge the irony of my quotation on Palin, I only hope that the Republican Party is so stupid as to nominate her for President in 2012, or for Palin's success in the Republican primaries to force the eventual nominee so far to the right that he or she becomes unelectable. That may be the necessary ingredient in energizing the Democratic base and getting it to the polls, as well keeping independents in the Democratic column--even if both are somewhat disillusioned with Obama--and ensuring the reelection Barack Obama, even if his popularity has declined from 2008. And yes, even if Obama continues to govern as more of a corporatist liberal than a progressive liberal, Obama's reelection would be far preferable to the election of a right-wing Republican or the return to the Bush years of absolutist free market economics and neocon foreign policy. So go ahead Bill, nominate Palin--or a Palin-influenced candidate--and make my day.

That said, Kristol, one of the leading neocon intellectuals, makes some interesting points that Democrats and progressives ignore at their peril:

1. Kristol implies that Democrats passing a corporatist health "reform" bill which subsidizes private health insurance and drug companies and uses the power of the IRS to force citizens to buy a private product may not be perceived by voters as advancing their interests and could help revitalize the Republican Party.

Kristol uses too many ellipses (...) in quoting from my article, so let me quote the key passages on the health care bill more completely.

"If Barack Obama and today's Congressional Democrats were passing Social Security for the first time, instead of creating a public program, they would likely be mandating that every American buy an annuity from a private, profit-driven Wall Street firm like Goldman Sachs (who would keep 15%-20% for overhead, profits and executive salaries) with the IRS serving as Wall Street's collection agency...


Democrats and liberals once stood for providing a social safety net through government programs like Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance, which were administered by government employees for the benefit of the American people and not by private companies for the benefit of their shareholders...

Democrats in Congress, under the leadership of Barack Obama, have now turned that principal on its head and made health care neither a right, nor a privilege, but an obligation for individual citizens and a government mandated profit center for private corporation. For the first time in American history, Democrats are about to pass a bill that uses the coercive power of the federal government to force every American--simply by virtue of being an American--to purchase the products of a private company. At heart, the Democrats' solution to 48 million uninsured is to force them to buy inadequate private insurance--with potentially high deductibles and co-pays and no price controls--or be fined by the federal government.

In effect, this represents an historic defeat for the type of liberalism represented by the New Deal and the Great Society and the ascendancy of a new type of corporatist liberalism."

Somewhat ironically, there's a degree of agreement between the libertarian right and the progressive left that government coercion to buy a private product is wrong. But the agreement ends there. Conservatives like Kristol believe that health care should be left to the free market. Progressives want a stronger role for government, ideally supporting the extension of Medicare to all Americans, and at least demanding a robust public option to compete with private insurance and reduce premiums.

Regardless, from a practical political point of view, Kristol may be right to gloat that, when average voters eventually realize the coercive corporatist nature of the Democrats' health "reform" bill, the result could be a revival of Republican fortunes.

2. From a broader political perspective, Kristol may be correct that the ascendancy of corporatism in the Democratic Party may reinvigorate support for Republicans. He quotes my Huffington Post article again:

"As it increasingly appears that Obama is the President of Wall Street, and not the President of Main Street, he is losing not only the left but the center. It's a myth that the path to winning the popular center in American politics is moving to the corporate center. If the only political choice given to American voters is using their taxes to help big government subsidize wealth corporations, or the Republican message of shrinking the size of government and cutting their taxes, many who voted for Obama will return to the fold of the seemingly brain-dead Republican Party."

In our roles as objective political analysts, Kristol and I foresee the same results from a corporatist-dominated Democratic Party. Of course as political partisans, Kristol sees it with glee and I see it with dread.

3. Perhaps the most interesting and provocative note in Kristol's article is the suggestion that there may be "an increasing degree of right-left agreement in diagnosing and distaining President Obama's corporatist liberalism."

Oddly enough, progressives and certain conservatives may agree with each other more than they do with corporatist Democrats and Republicans in opposing many of the economic policies of Geithner, Summers and Bernanke in their continued use of taxpayer-backed funds to subsidize the toxic assets of the big financial institutions who in turn pass-out multi-million dollar bonuses while being asked to do little for the country in return.

On specific issues, there may even be opportunities for left-right alliances. As progressive blogger Jane Hamsher has pointed out,

"Many recent measures have been bringing liberal progressives and conservative libertarians together to join forces in opposition...Individuals on both sides of the political spectrum agree on very little, but they do share both a tremendous concern for the corporatist control of government that politicians in both parties seem hell-bent on achieving."

Among the examples cited by Hamsher:

• Liberal Democrat Alan Grayson and Conservative Republican Ron Paul co-sponsoring a bill with 317 House co-sponsors to audit the Federal Reserve, which passed the House Financial Service Committee 43-26 over the objections of the Treasury Department.
• The liberal Campaign for America's Future sponsoring letters to the Senate opposing the reconfirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke until such an audit is conducted, signed by such liberals as progressive economists James Galbraith and Dean Baker, liberal blogger Chris Bowers of OpenLeft, and Campaign for America's Future President and Huffington Post blogger Robert Borosage, and by such conservatives as Grover Norquist of the right-wing Americans for Tax Reform and Phyllis Schafley who founded the conservative Eagle Forum.
• A December 21 letter opposing health care mandates which was signed by the likes of Tim Carpenter of Progressive Democrats of America and Bob Fertik of Democrats.com on the left, and Grover Norquist and Duane Parde of the National Taxpayers Union on the right.
• Conservative Senator Jim Bunning and America's only democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders joining in placing a hold on the Bernanke nomination until the Fed has been audited.

Now this budding left-right alliance needs to move beyond prominent individuals signing letters to the grassroots. For example, when I was a young progressive community organizer in Minneapolis soon after I graduated college some years ago, I helped form a left-right alliance between anti-tax conservatives (the precursor of the current tea party movement) and progressive liberals to defeat a proposal supported by corporatist Democrats and Republicans to use taxpayer money to subsidize the profits of the Minnesota Vikings by building them a heavily government-subsidized domed stadium. Low-tax conservatives and anti-corporate progressives--over the objections of the established Democratic and Republican Parties--convinced a majority of Minneapolis voters that their taxes shouldn't be used to subsidize the profits of a private corporation. (I'll be writing more about this experience, and its implications for today, in a coming Huffington Post article.)

So, in the generous and forgiving spirit Christmas and New Years, I'd like to challenge Bill Kristol to join together with progressives and principled conservatives to support a movement to a reenact a version of the Glass-Steagall Act to break up the big financial institutions like Citicorp, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, and to separate federally insured commercial banks from speculative investment banks, as well as joining with the British and French in putting a 50% excise tax on 2009 bank bonuses, over the opposition of corporatist Democrats and Republicans alike.

How about joining a left, right, and center alliance to bring a million Americans into the streets this spring to protest the greed of the big banks and their enablers in Washington?

Happy New Year.

(Note: I'll be writing a continuing series of blogs and articles on the dangers corporatist liberalism in the Democratic Party in The Huffington Post and elsewhere in 2010. Please look for them.)