American Manifesto


#1

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#2

It’s a lovely presentation, but no mention of what many consider the root cause of many of the author’s concerns, namely election campaigns funded by big money donors and how the pursuit of their money distracts our elected representatives and distorts our political process.

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. - Henry David Thoreau


#3

I think it could have been trimmed back some. Leave out the “Shit Republicans Say” stuff and focus on issues of inequality and environmental destruction for the sake of profit.


#4

Holy Tamole – AngelBomb wants $30 for this? I hope they can use some of that cash to hire an editor for the 2nd edition to help this guy figure out what he’s trying to say.

(Or even just hire a copyeditor: “Yes, it’s hard to believe that one small voice can hardly make a difference, but it can.”)


#5

“Many media outlets are extremely biased and have been proven so.”

Remove all people and you will not have bias.


#6

At least it’s an American Manifesto that the other 95% of the world can agree with …


#7

Yup. It’s a little bit more subtle than that, though. The influence of Big Money is even manifest up here in Canada where strict campaign-financing regulations are in place. In most of the Western world (including the USA), politicians are being bought on the promise of future considerations. Chris Dodd is a perfect example. Look at his record for IP legislation, and look where he is working now (for a salary that is an order of magnitude more than he made as a Senator).

There needs to be a multi-pronged attack on this sort of corruption. One needs to

  1. impose strict limits on campaign spending - if a representative (soit Congress-critter, soit MP) is only allowed to spend so much, the effect of a campaign contribution from Big Money is lessened;
  2. impose strict limits on campaign donations across the board - if corporations are people, they can spend no more than anyone else;
  3. impose strict limits on indirect (i.e., 3rd party) campaign advertising - endorsements are fine under freedom of speech, but to the same extent as an individual in the middle class can reasonably be expected to manage;
  4. and impose a very strict prohibition against representatives working in private industry for a long period of time (10+ years) after retiring from politics. If it takes beefing up already lush pensions to attract people to run, so be it.

What we really need is an international manifesto. The people and corporations who have been waging covert class warfare against the middle and working classes around the world for the last 40-odd years know no borders; neither should we. I know that I have more in common with a working class Joe in the USA, or a middle class Thai, than I do with the flaming sociopaths who are currently running the world. Borders and nationalism are means of control and distraction. A person confined by borders looks out beyond them with fear (and will submit to extreme personal invasions as a result - just look at what the TSA does). A follower who sees himself as part of a group defined by those borders will tend to see people on the outside as Others, and can be manipulated accordingly. I don’t see that we can do much about people who are followers - that seems ingrained in a social species - but we can make the groups much larger and more inclusive.


#8

Was with the author until he started lumping in fat people with the evils of capitalism and anti-democratic sentiment.


#9

“Todd Thyberg has a plan” …?

Okay, where is it? This was just a laundry list of problems that can conceivably be blamed on political (in)action. Then his prescription is “let’s be more logical and have better news sources”. Wow, thanks for the hot tip, guy.

IMO there are plenty of structural problems with our politics that he doesn’t even bother talking about - for example, the two-party system actively preventing serious discussion of these very issues. Should we not take a look at that?

Is there more to this? Without something actionable, he’s just another one of the passive complainers that he seems to think he’s better than, except he’s trying to make a buck, too.


#10

Not much controversy around the problems; Plenty of room to disagree about what to do about it. But you have to start someplace!

The political focus seems to take for granted that John Q Public could vote their way out of this mess if only big money weren’t distorting the playing field. I think the root cause goes deeper than that.

The approach I’ve been looking at is, “What would this cost in a sanely run world?”

By “this” read a gallon of gas, a month’s rent, an hour of my labour, a styrafoam cup, an AA battery, a pound of food. Chances are, if it would occur to you to wonder what it really costs, there are some economic distortions going on.

If the gas weren’t being subsidized, if the war had to be paid for with taxes, if real estate were truly market driven, if food was expensive enough to not want to waste any… A lot of ifs that I don’t have a good answer for, but someone out there does, lets’ build a wiki for this stuff!

Getting money out of politics is an important goal- but if we don’t get to talk about political economy at the same time, it’s not going to be a very productive change.


#11

Not that people would necessarily vote their way out of the mess, but that there is less incentive for politicians to put their self-interest ahead of the interest of the nation. Pols can be very shrewd: I’d expect at least some of the smarter ones to act like statesmen if the alternative couldn’t benefit them.

Most of the economic distortions you mention are there because they are in someone’s interest, and that someone (or those someones, as the case may be) is in a position to make his case very attractive to politicians. Those politicians are very human: they can convince themselves that aiding that special interest is in the national interest, and thus justify being suborned. Not only is it as easy as falling off a log, in a country with insanely long and expensive elections (i.e., the USA), allowing oneself to be suborned is absolutely necessary to get elected.

So, yeah, we could make a list of economic distortions - I think most of us know where they lie - but getting something done about them isn’t going to happen until the incentives for politicians to leave them in place are abolished, or at least severely curtailed. We’ve had a recent example of what happens otherwise with the patent troll legislation that got stymied.


#12

Kept waiting for the plant part … this was more of a litany of woes. Also, how the hell is this a manifesto? - I don’t think the author is using the word properly.


#14

You’ve got the tail wagging the dog. Politicians did not invent this economy, or the class of owner that captured politics. The system came first, then the money, then regulatory capture.


#15

Very, very debatable. The economic situation was not this way 50 years ago, and politicians weren’t introducing the kinds of legislative “solutions” they do now 50 years ago. Fifty years ago, it looked very much like “business as usual” was going to be slowly rolled back. (Yup, I was there.)

Big Money can’t change regulatory regimes all by itself; it can’t change tax regulations all by itself; it can’t create monopolies without at least benign neglect inside the Beltway (and inside the Beltway’s equivalents in other nations); it can’t even start to erode the Public Domain to the extent it has without considerable help: Big Money doesn’t have the “divine right” conferred by the approval of the masses to begin to do these things by itself. It took the people who do have that - politicians - to make them possible.

What was in place 50 years ago were the conditions necessary to subvert the pols, and subvert them Big Money certainly did. Add Big Money’s control of the media (with no incentive on the part of pols to bust those effective oligopolies, because pols in bed with Big Money benefit from them), and you end up with the current incestuous mess.

If you want to make a start at changing the economic situation as well as the political situation, you need to ensure a measure of independence on the part of political representatives. You need to remove the handles that Big Money uses to manipulate them. You need to put in place severe disincentives to dissuade career pols from feathering their pockets. If you need to beef up political salaries and pensions as carrots to balance the stick, so be it. There are other factors, to be sure: most pols are in the 1% and will vote their class interests, but you can’t hope to combat that without making it possible for people outside the 1% to run without going broke or ending up beholden to a “sugar daddy”. Right now, most politicians, even in the 1%, need that kind of help to get elected - the cost of elections both weeds out poorer potential candidates and pretty much ensures that the nominees will need to remember favours.

Regulatory capture, after all, happens when you have captured the regulators’ bosses. You want to change the system? Make that capture much harder to achieve. Make possible a healthy antagonism between politicians, industry and media. (A politician who is being lambasted by the media oligopoly is probably going to be the one leading the charge to break up the oligopoly - that’s healthy.)

So…

How do you propose to change the economic situation without the buy-in of the people who create the regulations and laws that affect the economy? Where is your point d’appui?

Because it ain’t me who has got the horse behind the cart - unless you can come up with something that affects the politics of the economy, you’re spinning your wheels. Politics and economy aren’t separable.

Edit: “feathering their nests”, “lining their pockets”… Hot day here, no air conditioning. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it…


#16

I think the most logical Point d’appui has got to be global warming and its associated issues. There’s enormous pressure against admitting that there could be anything to this anthropogenic climate shift, and yet such denial won’t change reality on the ground: When enough coastal cities get wet, people are going to start to care in a big way.

Right now the only major institution with any power that’s got a climate shift program on the books, is the US Navy. So my baseline scenario starts with a military coup there. It only gets weirder from there.


#17

Big problem with that is that Big Money has actually manufactured denialism in whole cloth to maintain current carbon fuels income. It ain’t only the US Navy that has programmes in place, mind you: Posse Comitatus is being eroded too, and I do believe there are plans to impose martial law when (you’ll note I don’t say “if”) the shit hits the fan.

Therein lies the problem, I think: the people running the joint think that they can continue with “business as usual”, even though they know that the shit will hit the fan. They believe they will be able maintain their privileged positions when that happens. I believe they are seriously out-of-touch with reality. It comes down to the (unfortunately) very human failing of being able to let go what has been gained. They don’t see doing that because they are “smart”, and “entitled” to their positions, so the best they can see to do is to batten down the hatches and weather the storm… when the storm itself is eminently preventable. <sigh>

So I don’t think a military coup is really what we want to see, and, if I did, I’d have the example of Thailand where coups are a regular event - the only establishment worse at running a country than the military is organised religion. In Thailand, the Theravada establishment regularly meddles in politics as well, just to make life interesting.

So… What then?

Edit: …being unable to let go, etc… Missed that when I was proofing this.


#18

I don’t disagree with most it, but some of the stuff on that is stupid.

Being #4 in porn consumption sounds pretty much what I would expect from the third largest nation in the world. The US is most certainly the largest nation in the world with high internet access and minimal internet censorship. I’m actually surprised the US isn’t #1 or #2. I am kind of curious who beats the US. The worst you can conclude from that is that maybe Americans are not getting laid enough?

Most private cars are not SUVs. I can’t even begin to imagine where the hell the author got that obviously incorrect bit of stupidity.

There is no one alive project the US having 130 million more people in it by 2050 unless you make some liberal immigration assumptions. If it wasn’t for immigration, the US would already be at negative population growth, and it is expected by most that it will tank over into negative numbers soon (like most of the industrialized world), even with immigration.

More than that, it is just a scattershot of generic liberal talking points with a solution at the end that amounts to “do it better and it will be more good”. Like I said, I generally agree, but meh.


#19

They don’t manufacture denialism out of thin air- there’s some powerful psychology going on as previously covered that those in power simply need to nudge along. They’re good at keeping people distracted. Their livelihood depends on it.

And obviously the problem with waiting for a sea level rise to wake people up, is by the time that’s happened we’re too busy to focus on what got us there.

Of course what we want to see, is the vast majority of people act in the interests of the vast majority. Yet being first to do so carries a fair amount of risk, so we’re all waiting for someone else to go first.


#20

Bingo. The message that people need to hear is that it will be their kids who will take it in the neck.


#21

None of this is going to get better - until Americans are willing to look at other nations and consider them as a reasonable source of comparison. Americans do not care about the world outside of America, and have little interest in learning about it - so statistics that show that America is not “that great” compared to other nations - means nothing - because Americans don’t care about the foreign world and don’t have any interest to learn. America has been slipping in world statistics for years - no one pays attention. STEP ONE - is getting Americans to learn that there is a big world out there and comparing ourselves to it - is a good thing and something we should pay attention to. This insular behavior must go away.