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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: October 2011

Two nights ago when I turned on CNN at my hotel in Prague, I caught a good deal of Piers Morgan’s interview with Michael Moore, played in a town hall format with a studio audience.

Watching Moore at work can be a frightening experience, as the radical demagogue provides simplistic answers to the growing issue of job loss for the middle class, tanking assets, and growing economic inequality. If you are Moore, it’s all caused by the greed of bankers and capitalists — unlike the days he calls the “golden era” of capitalism, when industry gave people good jobs, and corporate CEOs invested in their businesses and gave back some of the profit they made to people instead of keeping it all for themselves.

Moore knows little. He even argued that things are worse today than during the Great Depression, when he claimed automobile workers could get good jobs at high pay. Moore was obviously confused between the experience of the war years and the post-war age and that of the Depression, when the UAW barely managed to get union recognition after volatile strikes.

But as audience members who looked like regular folks, not like OWS protesters, told their heartbreaking stories of college graduates who couldn’t get jobs, job loss, worthless houses, and the personal crises resulting from these situations, one could see how Moore’s call for a new social movement for redistribution of wealth could gain supporters. Especially given no alternatives forthcoming from others, especially from serious conservatives.  

USA Today provides the details about what reporters Marsha Beliso and Paul Overberg call “The Fading Middle Class.” Using Reno, Nevada, as an example, they write:

Reno, which has among the highest rates of unemployment and foreclosures in the United States, is a stark example: the share of income in the metro area that was collected by the middle class fell from 49.8% in 2006 to 45.8% in 2010, the year after the 18-month recession ended.

A USA TODAY analysis of Census data found the Reno area was among 150 nationwide where the share of income going to the middle class — generally made up of households that make $20,700 to $99,900 a year — shrank from 2006 to 2010. Metro areas where the middle class’ share of income dropped outnumbered those where it grew by more than 2-to-1.

Analysts call it the middle-class squeeze.

College students are also feeling the pinch. The Wall Street Journal reports that “college grads aren’t feeling any better about the U.S. economy or American politics than the rest of the country. In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 80% of  white men with four-year college degrees and no graduate education said the country is on the wrong track, compared with 74% of all those polled. These college grads are just as pessimistic about the next year as everyone else: 33% expect the economy to get worse, while only 17% expect it to get better. The article goes on to note that: “On average, wages for workers with four-year college degrees fell by 8.6% adjusted for inflation between 2000 and 2010, according to government data. For them, it has been a lost decade.”

They write: “The unemployment rate for recent college grads is 10.7%. More than 14% of Americans between 25 and 34 (5.9 million in all) are living with their parents, up significantly from before the recession. Nearly a quarter of them have bachelor’s degrees. Having a college degree no longer guarantees a rising wage or a shot at the American dream.”

These statistics indicate why demagogues like Moore can make arguments that resonate, and why the OWS movement may be gaining support. What, then, can conservatives say to address the issue? An excellent start is made in The Claremont Review of Books, by R. Shep Melnick.

Melnick writes “the problem of growing inequality is undeniable and alarming.” He notes, reviewing a book by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, that “economic inequality in the U.S. has increased dramatically in recent decades. On this there can be little disagreement. They show that since 1979 only those at the top have seen their income rise significantly: since 1979, 36% of all after-tax gains went to the most affluent 1% of the population; over 20% of those gains went to the top thousandth (0.1%) of the income distribution. Economic inequality in the U.S. is now greater than at any time since the beginning of the Great Depression.”

While Richard Epstein makes a convincing case for the benefits of income inequality (you don’t make the poor rich by making the rich poorer), it is Paul Ryan who best articulates the distinction between the traditional American belief in a society based on the equality of opportunity and the possibility of upward mobility and a society based on the equality of outcomes: “More bureaucratic, less hopeful, and less free.” (From an October 26 speech he gave at the Heritage Foundation.)

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The more I read about the OWS protest, the more evidence is daily accumulated that it amounts to nothing but the old left gathering together again and pretending to be leading something new and vibrant.

The most important article about the OWS that I have read appeared a few days ago in The Wall Street Journal and was written by former Clinton pollster Doug Schoen. He states his findings, based on a poll of over 200 protesters, as follows:

 The Occupy Wall Street movement reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people—and particularly with swing voters who are largely independent and have been trending away from the president since the debate over health-care reform.

In case readers don’t get his point he adds that “The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies.”  His polling firm made the first, and perhaps the only, systematic study of who is at the park and what they stand for. The movement, he states, does not represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Instead, it is am amalgam of many different factions of the far Left, all of whom are united by believing in a radical forced redistribution of wealth, and the use of violence, if proved necessary.

He writes:

What binds a large majority of the protesters together—regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education—is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.

As a centrist Democrat, Schoen is concerned with advising his fellow liberal Democrats to stay away from the OWS crowd, unless they want to assure themselves of political collapse in future elections, including the 2012 presidential race.

Some news stories appearing elsewhere substantiate his claims. I saw one report that at the Boston OWS, the most popular figures were Noam Chomsky, who was soon going to talk at the encampment, and the late Howard Zinn. Today, press reports appeared that Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, David Amran and Guy Davis, all leftist musicians of note, led a march from the Symphony Space Theater on the Upper West Side to Columbus Circle, in a march that began at ll pm and paused at the site for a concert. When the most notable figures of the Left are led by Pete Seeger—you know from the get-go that the OWS is not anything new.

The more figures like Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore and Pete Seeger and company become the spokesman for the OWS and its most celebrated public figures, the less relevance it has, and the less claim its anarchistic young people have to portray themselves as leaders of the 99 per cent.

Perhaps they should heed liberal Alec Baldwin, who surprised everyone at Zucotti Park by openly defending capitalism and the banks. Maybe seeing the disorganized chaotic site does something to promote reason even among the most extreme liberals- especially those like Baldwin who are definitely not part of the 99 per cent.

 

 

 

 

Once again it seems to be Harry Belafonte time. The MSM, shameless in its continual adoration for all celebrities who devote a good portion of their lives to defending left-wing tyrannies, is this week reminding us incessantly that the 1950s Calypso star is not only a great artist who has contributed to America’s musical heritage, but an activist whose life must be celebrated as if his singing makes him a man whose pronouncements we should heed.

This Monday night, HBO will premiere the new documentary about his life, Sing Your Song. The station, not to be outdone by the film, also prints its own exclusive interview which ironically reveals a lot about Belafonte’s complete fanatical leftism. The interviewer asks him the rhetorical question, to which we already know the answer: “Do you see any parallels between the McCarthy era and our own political climate today?” To this loaded question, Belafonte tells his audience:

I not only see America headed in the direction of great similarities to the McCarthy period and what went on in America during those crucifying days, but I see America headed to places that can go well beyond. Today we have something that is most horrific written under the banner of “homeland security.” The extremes of those laws allow any citizen to be whisked away without anyone’s knowledge, without charging the individual, and hiding them for an indefinite period of time….That is the basis of a totalitarian state.

The artist who regularly sings the praises of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and who appeared at rallies in the old Stasi state of East Germany in its heyday somehow sees those regimes as liberationist and the United States in which he lives, whose media awards him and in which he regularly speaks out about everything… is supposedly on the verge of becoming a totalitarian state.

This week also saw many TV interviews by the singer, in conjunction with his new memoir, My Song, destined for the best-seller lists. At The Daily Beast, Richard Porton presents his own lengthy interview with Belafonte. Porton thinks that it is “rather astonishing that Belafonte has been speaking his mind and courting controversy for nearly sixty years.” Noting the attacks on the singer for calling Hermain Cain a “bad apple” who “knows little about race in America,” Porton calls these untoward comments simply “pungent sound bites,” and then explains that Belafonte is really “a thoughtful man whose barbs are often tempered by nuanced observations on art, politics and race.”

Yes, like those from 2002, when Belafonte told Larry King that Secretary of State Colin Powell was the equivalent of a slave “who lived in the house” in slavery days and who “served the master,” and that Condoleezza Rice is like a Jew “doing things that were anti-Semitic and against the best interests of her people.”

Porton prefers not to challenge Belafonte, only to allow his column to serve as more publicity for the singer’s leftist views. “I developed my own DNA for social justice,” the singer explains. Elaborating on his old views about Powell and Rice, he explains: “ I think that the people who have most benefited from cheap wages for workers and segregation are those that tend to espouse, from a racial perspective, the kind of sentiments expressed by people like Cain and Colin Powell. And it’s no small wonder that most of them gravitate to the right-wing philosophy of the Republican Party. They are who they are. Besides making an unpleasant noise, they won’t amount to much. Suffice to say that anyone with influence in the Republican Party will, like Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, and Condoleezza Rice, claim that black people are deluded when they talk about oppression and argue that people can magically ‘overcome’ their plight.”

As we expect, Porton does not let his readers know what Thomas, Cain and Rice have had to say in many eloquent statements about race in America. Indeed, Rice wrote her own memoir about her experiences growing up in the era of segregation, as did Clarence Thomas. But let us not fear: Belafonte also does not like Barack Obama, who, he says, has no “moral compass.” Why? Because Belafonte and other radicals thought he would enact their far left agenda instead of try to move it to center state via the path of American politics. And so Belafonte gives the president a “failing grade.” What bothers the singer is that the president thinks laws have to be passed by Congress. As he puts it: “He doesn’t need the Congress all the time.” And this from a man who sees America going totalitarian and wants leftist programs put into effect without laws passed  by the people’s house.

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You have to read this to believe it, and of course, it comes from the pages of The New York Times, forever seeking to establish itself as the paper of the American Left.  The moral of this story is clear: be careful to what panhandler you give your money to in New York City, especially if it’s a 97 year old seemingly homeless and bedraggled old guy working his craft on the tony Murray Hill area on the east side of the city.

Writer Cory Kilgannon calls him “a familiar sight, the old man who solicits change from drivers stopped at a red light on East 35th Street in Midtown Manhattan every day near Third Avenue.” The guy, it seems, has been doing it for 17 years, seven days a week, working “with the help of a walker.”

Now the average motorist might stop and take pity on this poor guy, who looks like what you expect a white male of his age might look, possibly having worked all his life at a job he lost, or one in which he lost his pension and is down on his luck. But read on. He lives, Mr. Kilgannon tells us, “in a cozy 1840 carriage house on East 36th Street that he estimates he could sell for $3.5 million.”  His domicile is in something named “Sniffen Court,” whose other residents include Lenny Kravitz and Claudia Schiffer. He bought it in 1974 for $175,000.00, and the home next door just sold for $5 million.

Yet he stands at his beat from 11 am, six hours or so a day, asking passing drivers: “Help a guy out?” They assume, as you would if you came across this man, that the money is for himself. It isn’t, and as readers are told, “I don’t tell them where the money’s going, and I’m sure they don’t care.”

So here is the answer. If you are wondering what motivates this man to stand out day in and day out, through summer and winter, panhandling for the $100 to $250 he brings in each day—it is the grand and glorious cause of Cuban Communism and Fidel Castro! Yes, the money he collects, which he carefully counts and puts on a list of his daily take, is all for Comrade Fidel, as he proudly informs Kilgannon, “pointing to the photographs on his wall of him with Fidel Castro,” one of them autographed, with the message from Castro “with admiration, gratitude and affection.”

The man, it turns out, is someone known as Professor Irwin Corey, “The World’s Foremost Authority,” or “The Professor of Double-talk,” as some call him. Since the 1940’s, he has performed his comedy routines, sometimes working alongside people like Jackie Gleason and Woody Allen. But he is hardly “legendary,” as Kilgannon and others say. If he was, undoubtedly some if not many of the motorists who stop to give him money would recognize him.

The last time I saw him, indeed when I had a run-in with Corey, was at the famous Town Hall debate on the Rosenberg case in which Joyce Milton, Sol Stern and I opposed Walter and Miriam Schneir at New York City’s Town Hall in 1983. As I was speaking, Corey- a rabid supporter of the Rosenbergs’ innocence- stood up on his chair and started screaming at me, “How much did the FBI pay you to say they were guilty?” and  “traitor” and other such epithets. I recall his face turning red with rage and looking like he was about to either explode from anger or have a heart attack.

Corey now claims that his “left-wing advocacy” interrupted his career and hence he was blacklisted from TV networks, the old claim of those who in fact, were never very funny—something which many who have heard Corey can well attest to.

So, if you happen to be driving into Manhattan from the Queens-Midtown Bridge, and you see old Irwin Corey panhandling and approaching your car, tell him what you think of Cuba’s phony heralded health care system (by those like Michael Moore and Corey,) and what you think of a free U.S. citizen raising dough for Castro’s tyranny. Maybe, at least, you and some others can give him something other than a dollar that is much more effective- a good piece of your mind.

What strikes me about the Left’s coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement is the total delusion about its meaning and the scope of its reach. I do not dispute that there is justified grievance about the bailout of the big banks by the Obama administration and the failure to get the economy moving and to create new jobs. But on this score, the OWS shares its estimate with that of the Tea Party, which made cutting the deficit and doing something about our growing entitlements a primary goal.

But where the OWS is different, is in its apparent characterization of itself as radical or revolutionary, terms coming from the utopian and highly unrealistic hopes of its participants. In his column today, David Brooks rightfully writes that they have “nothing to say about education reform, Medicare reform, tax reform, wage stagnation or polarization. They will have nothing to say about the way Americans have overconsumed and overborrowed. These are problems that implicate a much broader swath of society than the top 1 percent,” including the 99 percent they claim to represent. These folks are anything but radical, says Brooks. Their redistributionist claim to pay for everything by taxing the rich at the highest rate possible is a chimera. As he puts it,

Even if you tax away 50 percent of the income of those making between $1 million and $10 million, you only reduce the national debt by 1 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. If you confiscate all the income of those making more than $10 million, you reduce the debt by 2 percent. You would still be nibbling only meekly around the edges.

These protesters may look radical and think of themselves that way, he adds, but the truth is that

its members’ ideas are less radical than those you might hear at your average Rotary Club. Its members may hate capitalism. A third believe the U.S. is no better than Al Qaeda, according to a New York magazine survey, but since the left no longer believes in the nationalization of industry, these “radicals” really have no systemic reforms to fall back on.

Brooks takes them a tad too seriously; these protestors are all poseurs, more interested in getting attention than in being serious. They have no sense of the economic reality in which the world lives; hence their magic solution to everything is “tax the rich.”

The truth is that they are would-be revolutionaries who perform for the TV news, which if it went away, would quickly find that the Liberty Park encampment would disappear in one day.

So here are three of my favorite examples of the radical delusion, in all of their multifold patterns:

I: Hendrik Hertzberg’s “Talk of the Town” in the latest New Yorker. Hertzberg is too smart to take the protestors seriously. Taking off from Chairman Mao’s well-known aphorism that a revolution “is not a dinner party,” he writes that the protest is in fact “a dinner party of sorts, albeit one with donated, often organic food served on paper plates,” tea that is of course “mostly herbal,” but no marijuana! New York City, evidently, is not Berkeley, California, circa 1968.

Hertzberg therefore questions “the meaning of it all,” and emphasizes with humor that whatever it amounts to, it has become “one of the city’s most interesting bargain tourist destinations.”  Also, what drew crowds at first was not pure protest, but a false rumor that the mega rock band Radiohead would appear there and play for free!  Yet Hertzberg took heart when “transit workers, teamsters, teachers, communications workers, service employees” all heeded the call of their union leaders and packed the area with 15,000 more people. The dream of the working class making the revolution real still lives.

Yet he understands that OWS does not have a “traditional agenda: a list of ‘demands,’ a set of legislative recommendations, a five-point program.” Of course they don’t. Writing a five-point program takes some work — which clearly these people don’t know how to do. They prefer what he calls “constructive group dynamics,” a feel-good time on the street to real politics. And of course, Hertzberg loves it. He writes:

There’s something oddly moving about a crowd of smart-phone-addicted, computer-savvy people cooperating to create such an utterly low-tech, strikingly human, curiously tribal means of amplification—a literal loudspeaker.

Nevertheless, as a good radical, Hertzberg has hope. The “greed and fraud” that  “precipitated the economic crisis” is now being protested, and that is enough for now. The “Republican right willing and usually able to block any measures…that might relieve the suffering” is being challenged, and for him, that will do for now. I guess Hertzberg does not know about the Community Reinvestment Act, ACORN, the bi-partisan repeal of Glass-Steagall and the Dodd-Frank law — all of which Democrats have supported and which led to the housing bubble and the market collapse. So he sees a great future, as long as it is not hijacked by “a flaky fringe.”

I’ve got news for you, Hertzberg. You were witnessing the flaky fringe in all its glory. But I guess for you, what you saw doesn’t meet the criteria for flaky.

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The “Occupy Wall Street” protests have created a major problem for the Obama administration and the Democrats. Undoubtedly, the occupation and protests have been encouraged by the constant refrain of the need to “tax the rich” and the calls to have “millionaires pay their fair share” that have come regularly from the White House. Having heard the president and his team engage in regular rounds of class warfare, we should not be surprised when scores turn out and act like taking over public space with signs attacking the wealthy will somehow lead to a resolution of the very real problems facing our country.

Nevertheless, as of Obama’s remarks yesterday, the administration has not decided whether  to really stand behind the demonstrators. At most, what the president said is that “the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works…we have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow.” That is a rather soft comment that is not exactly a strong endorsement.

What the administration prefers is to leave overt support to the most radical of its supporters, like the socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who told CNN that he stands behind them. Yet, as a shrewd report in the Wall Street Journal makes quite clear,

[M]any in the Democratic Party remain studiously silent on the growing crowds, wary of embracing a protest movement whose aims and goals are unclear, some Democratic congressional aides said Thursday. Moderate, middle-class swing voters, as well as wealthy Democratic Wall Street donors, may be turned off by the demonstrators’ rougher edges.

And those rough edges are there. Watch any of the video reports on MSNBC, which has virtually camped out there during its evening prime time coverage by the likes of Ed Schultz and the rest of its left-leaning team, and you will see a conglomeration of younger people in their 20s and 30s. There is also a strange amalgamation of leftover hippies from the ’60s and some who appear to be truly bizarre, as well as scores of extreme left radical groups from organizations as diverse as anarchists, members of the Industrial Workers of the World (whose heyday was in the early 20th century), and, of course, an assortment of every remaining communist and socialist grouplet with their own signs and propaganda.

There are also many younger highly tech-savvy people. CNN’s Erin Burnett interviewed one unemployed software engineer, who, as she pointed out, was sitting  with his laptop Apple computer and other varied products from the late Steve Jobs’ company. Dan, who seems to be a nice young man, was asked by Burnett whether he included Apple among the corporations he was protesting. Surprised by the question, Dan answered that their “design is elegant.” Undoubtedly, he seems unaware that Apple trades at close to $400 a share on the very stock market he is protesting.

Writing at the New York Post, columnist John Podhoretz noted that Steve Jobs did more than the Obama administration and its stimulus ever did to create jobs, and that rather than the “collective action” that the president says will save America, it was the business acumen of Jobs, a single individual and visionary who had the power and took the effort to build and rebuild a company on his own initiative, that truly helped the country. As Podhoretz points out, “As of September 2010, 49,400 people in the United States (and probably twice as many abroad) work for Apple to create its products, sell them, deliver them and help people use them.”

Ironically, Jobs was a product of the counterculture of the ’60s, a man who swore by LSD, dated Joan Baez, and considered himself something of a liberal. But in his practice and his life, everything he did promoted the individual effort in which he built a company from the bottom up, beginning with a small investment on a borrowed $1500.00. His life was not spent engaging in “community organizing” and attacking banks and investors, but rather, using their funds and help to actually create a company whose small portion of the PC market made Apple one of the titans of Wall Street.

Now, the Democrats and the leftist movement are seeking to channel the protest into an organized form meant to pressure Obama to turn to the left. Led by Van Jones and company, they will do all they can to get the protestors to join forces with their operation at the Center for American Progress think tank. One remaining centrist Democrat, Matt Bennett of a group called Third Way, told the WSJ that he feared “a rowdy and inchoate movement that could alienate independent voters Democrats needed next year. ‘Swing voters are watching carefully, and we’re not convinced this kind of messaging will resonate,’  he said.” Indeed, those once Reagan Democrats in states like Michigan and Ohio, watching the antics of the “Occupy Wall Street” folks and the public sector unions joining them at the demonstrations, are likely to run helter skelter to the Republican Party each time they see a demonstrator carrying signs calling for revolution and socialism.

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The left in America continues to argue that Obama is too far to the right. They believe they need a strong left-wing people’s movement that will organize and force Obama to the real left, just as the CIO forced FDR to initiate the so-called Second New Deal and pass scores of new  laws including Social Security and the Wagner Labor Relations Act. Big Labor also persuaded Roosevelt to undertake the beginning of a shift to something approximating an American social-democracy.

The other analogy, one E.J. Dionne makes in a Washington Post column,  is to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which pushed Lyndon B. Johnson to favor and introduce a civil rights bill that would give African-Americans long-delayed legal equality all through the country. As LBJ said in his speech to the nation, using the very words of the movement as his own, “We shall overcome.”

So  E.J. Dionne asks: “Why hasn’t there been a tea party on the left? And can President Obama and the American left develop a functional relationship?” His answer is that they must, if Obama is to be the man his supporters thought he was in 2008. He is somewhat jealous, since he writes: “The entire political agenda has shifted far to the right because the tea party and extremely conservative ideas have earned so much attention.”

What he really means is not that the Tea Party gets attention, but that it has managed to mobilize the populace against the very dangerous Obama policies that have wreaked havoc on the economy. Indeed, whatever attention these conservative ideas have received comes in the form of endless attacks on them from the MSM, whose practitioners are committed to liberal shibboleths, and as Ronald Reagan once quipped, “liberals will fight to the death to defend the right of people to agree with them.”

What Dionne complains about is something else: namely, that when Obama won, the Left stopped mobilizing, thinking that all their problems were over, and they took at Obama’s word that he would soon begin the “fundamental transformation of America” that he had promised.

Dionne acknowledges that Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. But he fails to ask since that was the case, why could he not get through the type of legislation he says  now is not possible  because Republicans control the House?  Dionne also says Obama only pretended to be a left-winger; something he could pull off because there was no organized real Left to show that he was not. In his eyes, he only wanted the Left as a force to support his rather mild and cautious semi-reforms, such as ObamaCare.

Thus Dionne treats ObamaCare as a half-measure, which if one compares it to British old-style socialized medicine or total single-payer system favored by the Left, it certainly is. But of course, most Americans have read serious conservative critiques of the existing Obama health care legislation, and know full well that it will completely ruin the health care system we have, drive the price of health care up, and make it less accessible for everyone. And like Paul Krugman, he argues that the problem with the stimulus was not that it could not work and actually made things worse, but that it was not large enough!

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