The Angry Bear blog has a different take on the question raised by the BBC: Why voters vote against their own interests? The answer given by Angry Bear is hardly more satisfying than that given by the BBC, but the conclusion adds a slight twist. To paraphrase the conclusion:
She may not be all that into you, but she is confused about what she does want, so ignore her screams.
We apologize again for being an asshole here, Maggie, but we think you need to reconsider your conclusion. Angry Bear presents some pretty compelling evidence that the voters in Massachusetts were all over the map with regard to the current attempt at health insurance reform in Washington – if reform is the correct word for what is happening. The voters seem pretty certain that health insurance is important to everyone, but believe they do not have the responsibility to assure access to insurance for everyone. They are, it is clear by the polling data, being selfish rude uncaring dicks. Which is not an all that surprising observation about Massachusetts voters, who have the uncanny ability to forget that anyone else exists once the are safely seated inside their horribly overpriced raised ranch, on their Bob’s Discount Furniture sectional, in front of their 42 inch, wide-screen, high-definition plasma television, watching American Idol.
The fact is, Massachusetts voters really are mostly selfish rude uncaring dicks.
They spend an inordinate amount of time listening to shock radio neo-Nazi Jay Severin spout on about crimnaliens, and other darker peoples of low intelligence, morals, and greater than average proclivities toward debasing society and its laws. As neighbors, they are not nice people, and, frankly, it is almost physically revolting to spend much time with them and listen to them drone on endlessly about sports scores and other inanities which seem to have near sacred import within the local culture.
That Harvard and other institutions of higher learning are co-located with them, is less an argument for Boston culture than it an argument for really good zoning laws.
Despite that, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly sent Obama to Washington to change it. They did not know what change looked like – their vision was incoherent at best and dangerously fascistic at its worst. But, they sensed, in some dimly understood fashion short of what might be called a consciousness of themselves as a distinct social class in society irreversibly in opposition to the empire, that Washington does not function in their interests. And when the “change” Obama undertook in Washington fell short of this dimly understood sense, they sent Scott Brown to reemphasize the message.
It is a jumble – a mess – a chaotic mixture of near meaningless data which grows less meaningful when laid out in the form of exit polls and followup interviews. But, the gist of the meaning is clear: They hate Washington.*
Please, Maggie, et al. Pretend the voter is your date. You have to listen to her screams: She just not into you, and a hand over her mouth isn’t going to change that.
* Note: Okay. They may not yet be to the point where they hate Washington, but they are as deeply suspicious of the motive of Washington politicians as any of the new voters Obama brought into the process.
The BBC has an article which purports to explain why un-unionized working people will tend to vote against their own interest. They introduce the discussion with a shocking statistic:
In Texas, where barely two-thirds of the population have full health insurance and over a fifth of all children have no cover at all, opposition to the legislation is currently running at 87%.
In the BBC’s explanation,voters feel they are being taken for granted:
As Mr Frank sees it, authenticity has replaced economics as the driving force of modern politics. The authentic politicians are the ones who sound like they are speaking from the gut, not the cerebral cortex. Of course, they might be faking it, but it is no joke to say that in contemporary politics, if you can fake sincerity, you have got it made.
And the ultimate sin in modern politics is appearing to take the voters for granted.
This is a culture war but it is not simply being driven by differences over abortion, or religion, or patriotism. And it is not simply Red states vs. Blue states any more. It is a war on the entire political culture, on the arrogance of politicians, on their slipperiness and lack of principle, on their endless deal making and compromises.
And when the politicians say to the people protesting: ‘But we’re doing this for you’, that just makes it worse. In fact, that seems to be what makes them angriest of all.
The argument is tempting. The writer and his sources work off the implicit assumption that Washington is busily doing what is in our interest and getting slapped for it. This assumption, however, is never substantiated.
The article also does nothing to explain the other likely scenario: that Washington is taking them for granted – treating them as if they were of marginal concern. It tries to explain the voters’ response to the snub, but not the snub itself.
As you probably guessed, the work here is usually the first take on a hypothesis. We tend to write with firm convictions, but, in reality, we are trying to make sense of this shit as much as you are. We struggle with the same question you do: How the fuck did that happen? Unlike many of you, however, we don’t believe in the explanatory power of accidents, fools, or God! If shit happens, then the conditions of society must make it both possible and, to some extent, historically necessary.
So, as we really began to think about how you were left defenseless by the absence of your own organizations a question immediately came to mind: Why does this matter? Certainly, workers at Wal-Mart seem quite satisfied with their jobs and lives – at least as satisfied as the rest of us – and, appear to believe they are not harmed in any fundamentally important way by the lack of a union.
Further up the employment food chain there is little dissent with this view.
You may argue that this view is wrong, but any hypothesis which seeks to explain why the lack of a union at Wal-Mart has been the single most important expression of the dire predicament you now face must also explain why the indifference of Wal-Mart workers to the union movement is a embedded in that predicament without relying on such external devices as misinformation, bribery, propaganda, stupidity, or tricks.
Our explanation would be that a union itself provides the necessary (but, apparently, not sufficient) condition for the development among its members of thoughts and actions consistent with their position as members of a distinct class.
To understand why consider that, separately, each Wal-Mart worker is actually in the same business as Wal-Mart: They sell commodites – goods. And, taken individually, workers have the same concerns as Wal-Mart in this regard: How much can I get for what I have to sell? Wal-Mart sells badly made shoes from China. Wal-Mart’s workers sell their physical selves for a certain period of time. There is, in theory, no difference between Wal-Mart’s view of the world and the view of the world held by its employees, insofar as they are considered only as someone with something to sell. Although both Wal-Mart and its employees are, in reality, far more complex than this simple picture of their interests would suggest, they share a common concern: If either Wal-Mart or its employees are unable to sell their goods, they die or go bankrupt.
However, the circumstance each faces is actually unequal in this regard: If the employee is unable to sell her good – her physical self – she will die, but Wal-Mart probably will continue. The reverse case does not hold: If Wal-Mart is no longer able to sell its good, the employee will be unable to sell hers – and, thus, she will die anyway. The sale of her good is dependent on the sale of Wal-Mart’s goods, but the sale of Wal-Mart’s goods is not dependent on the sale of her good. Strictly considered only from the standpoint of Wal-Mart and its employee as simple sellers of a commodity, the interest of the employee is that Wal-Mart flourishes so that she might be able to continue selling her commodity to it. The initial premise of her thought and action is not, therefore, rooted in her definite social position as a worker, but in her position as a commodity seller.
Should she, or a co-worker, get into their head that a union might make things a little less intolerable at Wal-Mart, the first thought that comes to mind is the possibility she might lose the opportunity to sell her commodity as a result. The most important function a union provides is not that of an instrument to engage capital in the struggle over wages and working conditions, but to make it possible for the worker to develop an independent consciousness of herself as a member of a class through those struggles. Without it, that consciousness cannot easily develop.
What you saw on the chart we produced – the decline in union membership since 1948 – is, most importantly, a decline in the capacity of an entire class to think for itself, act on its own behalf and in its own interest, even as a relentless war was being waged against it.
(As an aside: If we wanted to stunt the growth of unions among service sector workers in this country, we would probably pick and capitalize a small retailer in a backward right-to-work state like Arkansas to take nation wide. We would also deliberately expand it, first, in places marked by lower wages and income and minimal unionization. Just a thought.)
You can continue adding to your stock portfolios…
Compensation costs increased 1.2 percent, the same as last quarter’s 12-month percent increase. These are the smallest percent changes published since the series began in 1979. The wage and salary series increased 1.4 percent for the current 12-month period, the same as the September 2009 12-month percent increase. These are also the smallest published percent changes since the series began in 1975. The cost of benefits increased 1.0 percent for the 12-month period ending December 2009. This is the smallest published percent change since the series began in 1979. In September 2009, benefits increased 1.1 percent. Employer costs for health benefits increased 4.4 percent for the 12-month period ending December 2009. In December 2008, the 12-month percent change was 3.5 percent. (emphasis added)
Despite what you will hear today, these are not good numbers for anyone except the sellers of luxury yachts.Output is increasing even as unemployment is rising; wages are entirely stagnant.
You now have no place else to go, and no means of raising your voice against this outrage, since you stupidly thought the Democrats were protecting your interests.
You are virtually defenseless and have been outmaneuvered on every level over the last 60 years since the President Truman signed NSC-68. While you were being dazzled by all the post-war trinkets, Wall Street was engaged in a long term covert war on you, your organizations, and your ability to act or think in your own interest. It does not appear, at this late hour, that you can recover any significant portion of the bargaining position you have lost.
As workers, and as citizens, you have been broken and defeated. You’re fucked!
We do wish there was a way to sugar-coat our conclusions on this, but we fear any attempt to soften the presentation of how dire our collective present circumstances are would only lull you into some false sense of security. We will leave the gushy optimism to the progressives, who will, no doubt, respond to our conclusion with the sort of puckish self-delusion with which they have marked more than 60 years as the loyal opposition to the most rapacious and predatory economic beast ever to slouch toward Jerusalem.
Majority rules! They will counter. Democracy is a work in progress! (Pun intended)
They will, perhaps, quote to you from one of the very well delivered speeches of the Messiah himself, or, to avoid the appearance of worshiping the rough beast, an optimistic view of American democracy written by some safely dead moral authority. But more likely, they will attempt to drag you into some wonky policy discussion on the tactical subtleties of health insurance reform in the context of shifting party loyalties, as we recently experienced with one writer on the blog, Econospeak.
I have to say it because the Senate health care bill is terribly flawed and very far from what so many of us were hoping for. However, we must face the hard reality in light of the election results in Massachusetts. There is simply no way anybody is going to get the Senate to pass any variation on it once Scott Brown is seated, unless they can actually change the rules to do reconciliation with 50 votes without mucking about at it for too long. The only possible bill likely to be actually signed into law at this point is the one passed with such enormous effort by the Senate in December. If the House refuses we will not see another serious effort for many years. The bill does little, but it is better than nothing, increasing coverage to two thirds of the uninsured and forbidding insurance companies from refusing people over preexisting conditions or arbitrarily dumping them.
Basically there are six systems of health care out there: 1) more or less pure laissez faire, formerly seen in the US but now no high income countries, although some very poor countries; 2) the US system of mixed public private with for-profit health insurance companies and no universal coverage; 3) universal coverage through private but non-profit insurance companies, seen in Switzerland and the Netherlands; 4) mixed private public system with universal coverage, non-profit private insurance companies, and a public option, see Germany and top-rated on health-care-by-the-WHO France; 5) a single payer system by government with universal coverage, with health care workers still privately (mostly self) employed, with Canada the leading example, and 6) full socialized medicine with health care workers employees of the state, see the UK and the former Soviet Union. There has been talk in the US of single payer, and many in Congress wanted a public option (although nobody was willing to push to change our badly behaved for-profit health insurers to non-profit), but in the end the Senate bill does not move us off System 2, merely extends and improves it some. Still, it is better than nothing, and killing it with no alternative will not help Dems politically this fall in the elections.
The writer argues as if the crude, rudimentary social safety net in the United States can be attributed to the lack of parliamentary tactical imagination on the part of the Democratic Party – a party which began this Congress with control of the Presidency, and unchallengeable control of both houses.
We prefer to assume the worst: The Washington-Wall Street Axis is firmly in control of both parties, in both houses of Congress, and the Presidency. Its aim is to enforce the status quo – otherwise referred to as the Washington Bipartisan Consensus – against any change in the existing balance of power in the United States.
We have already offered as evidence two of the most shocking features of this balance of power:
- The steady off-shoring of the US industrial infrastructure: The export of at least non-military critical manufacturing capacity to low wage industrial parks in the less developed countries. A process that not only allows American corporations to escape the relatively higher wages of the US, but also its regulatory regime.
- The covert dismantling of your independent organizations. and erosion of your capacity to organize yourselves and to think and act independently of the two parties. As we have shown previously – and, we understand, Tom Walker will document in a forthcoming book – one of the most important efforts of the authors of National Security Council Report 68 was to hijack the union movement in this nation and subvert it – leaving it in such pitiful shape as is demonstrated by the statistics we mentioned in the previous segment.
With the Messiah’s sweeping election victory, and the events of last year’s health insurance debate can there be any question that Washington is firmly in the grip the most predatory interests in American society? What other explanation can you give for why a party with the presidency and insurmountable majorities in both houses of Congress begins to fulfill one of its most important and long standing campaign promises by negotiating with the same losers who have have spent the last sixty years opposing that promise!
Oh, but it gets worse.
Not only are you fucked, so is the rest of the planet.
James Galbraith is at it again. Writing about the concession some progressives are willing to make on the need for deficit reduction some day in the future, he writes:
In reality, we need big budget deficits. We need them now. We need bigger deficits than we’ve got, to stabilize state and local governments and to provide jobs and payroll tax relief. And we may need them for a long time, on an increasing scale, and in the service of a sustained investment strategy aimed at solving our jobs, energy, environment and climate change problems. To pretend that expansionary policies are needed only for now, gives all this away.
Government needs to borrow big, because your credit limit has been reached – you’re maxed out:
The public deficit is just the obverse of net private savings. That is, when private credit is booming, investment exceeds saving and deficits tend to disappear. That’s what happened in the 1990s. When credit collapses, deficits return. That’s what’s happening now. Large long-term deficits will occur, or not, depending only on whether we succeed in generating a new growth cycle, financed by the expansion of private credit. Policies to cut spending or raise taxes — now or for that matter in the future — contribute nothing to this goal.
If Washington wants to balance its budget, it must make it possible for you to borrow more by providing relief on the debt you have already accumulated, because, you see,
… the economy works better and people are happier when they can borrow and invest privately. But if we don’t get them, the alternative isn’t a “return to fiscal responsibility.” It’s a choice between large public budget deficits that fund important and useful activities and tax relief, or large deficits because the recession, housing slump and high unemployment drag on and on, all made worse by cuts in Social Security, Medicare and other public spending.
Notice his use of the word, invest, rather than the more accurate term, buy another 42 inch high-definition, wide-screen television. If he had use the more accurate terminology at this point in his commentary, it would have been perfectly obvious to you, that you were being milked like a cow – a domestic farm animal, fed hay though one body cavity, and relieved of the mother’s milk of permanent debt servitude through another.
Government must run up a huge debt in those times when you cannot. James would rather you were the one to incur the debt, since the whole consumer mall walking experience makes you just gushy with various positive hormonal feedback loopy thingies. However, when you are permanently displaced because your job just went to Brazil, government must step in with its public credit card to fill the empty void.
What is silly about this entire argument, which we revisit again and again, is not merely that it is so incredibly stupid as to defy conprehension that it continues to be held by a grown man of Galbraith’s professional stature. What really makes it so astonishing is that the economists in the Messiah’s administration agree with all of Mr. Galbraith’s arguments, and still are pushing for deficit reduction.
Because, as Galbraith knows, Washington has absolutely no intention of balancing the federal budget, or even reducing the deficit – ever. They just intend to spend as much of it on the military as they can. Which is why he threw dust in your eyes at the beginning of his commentary:
If you exclude Social Security and Medicare, there is no way to cut deficits seriously… except by slashing the Pentagon or by raising taxes. If you had to do something, I agree, those would be better moves. But good luck. It’s not a political battle one can win.
You see that’s James’ real agenda here – to misdirect you away from attacking the bloated defense budget as a battle you can’t win, and so direct you into a dead end, where, if you then argue for increasing the budget deficit still more to feed the hungry, and care for the sick, you can be isolated, marginalized and ignored.
When will progressives ever begin to see through these charlatans?