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Easy to Gut Public Education When Your Own Kids Attend Private School January 13, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Education.
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Roger’s note: just another example of the fact that those who govern us and the owners and managers of corporate wealth who in turn own those who govern us — they do not live in the same world that we common folk do.  And they call it “democracy.”
Published on Friday, January 13, 2012 by Salon.com

America’s Dangerously Removed Elite

  by  David Sirota

Last week, my local Twittersphere momentarily erupted with allegations that Denver’s public school superintendent, Tom Boasberg, is sending his kids to a private school that eschews high-stakes testing. Boasberg, an icon of the national movement pushing high-stakes testing and undermining traditional public education, eventually defended himself by insisting that his kids attended that special school only during preschool and that they now attend a public school. Yet his spokesman admitted that the school is not in Denver but in Boulder, Colo., one of America’s wealthiest enclaves.

 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel  (Photo: AP/Reuters)

Boasberg, you see, refuses to live in the district that he governs. Though having no background in education administration, this longtime telecom executive used his connections to get appointed Denver superintendent, and he now acts like a king. From the confines of his distant castle in Boulder, he issues edicts to his low-income fiefdom — decrees demonizing teachers, shutting down neighborhood schools over community objections and promoting privately administered charter schools. Meanwhile, he makes sure his own royal family is insulated in a wealthy district that doesn’t experience his destructive policies.

No doubt this is but a microcosmic story in a country whose patrician overlords are regularly conjuring the feudalism of Europe circa the Middle Ages. Today, our mayors deploy police against homeless people and protesters; our governors demand crushing budget cuts from the confines of their taxpayer-funded mansions; our Congress exempts itself from insider-trading laws and provides itself healthcare benefits denied to others; and our nation’s capital has become one of the world’s wealthiest cities, despite the recession.

Taken together, we see that there really are “Two Americas,” as the saying goes — and that’s no accident. It’s the result of a permanent elite that is removing itself from the rest of the nation. Nowhere is this more obvious than in education — a realm in which this elite physically separates itself from us mere serfs. As the head of one of the country’s largest urban school districts, Boasberg is a perfect example of this — but he is only one example.

The Washington Post, for instance, notes that it has become an unquestioned “tradition among Washington’s power elite” — read: elected officials — to send their kids to the ultra-expensive private school Sidwell Friends. At the same time, many of these officials have backed budget policies that weaken public education.

Outside of Washington, it’s often the same story; as just two recent examples, both Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have championed massive cuts to public education while sending their kids to private school.

In many cases, these aristocrats aren’t even required to publicly explain themselves. (Boasberg, for example, is never hounded by local media about why he refuses to live in Denver.) Worse, on the rare occasions that questions are posed, privacy is the oft-used excuse to not answer, whether it’s Obama defenders dismissing queries about their Sidwell decision, Christie telling a voter his school choices are “none of your business” or Emanuel storming out of a television interview and then citing his “private life” when asked about the issue.

This might be a convincing argument about ordinary citizens’ personal education choices, but it’s an insult coming from public officials. When they remove themselves and their families from a community — but still retain power over that community — they end up acting as foreign occupiers, subjecting us to policies they would never subject their own kin to.

Pretending this is acceptable or just a “private” decision, then, is to tolerate ancient, ruling-class notions that are no longer sustainable in the 21st century. Indeed, if this nation is going to remain a modern republic, it can’t also be a Medieval oligarchy — no matter how much America’s elite wants to keep governing from behind the palace walls.

© 2012 Salon

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David Sirota

David Sirota is a best-selling author whose new book “Back to Our Future” is now available. He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and is a contributing writer at Salon.com. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

How Baseball Explains Modern Racism October 3, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Sports.
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 Roger’s note: the “Immortal” Satchel Paige would have transcended the racist umpires, but alas perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time only made it to the Show post-Jackie Robinson, at a time when he was already changing his great grandchildren’s diapers.

Friday 30 September 2011

by: David Sirota, Truthout         | Op-Ed

Despite recent odes to “post-racial” sensibilities, persistent racial wage and unemployment gaps show that prejudice is alive and well in America. Nonetheless, that truism is often angrily denied or willfully ignored in our society, in part because prejudice is so much more difficult to recognize on a day-to-day basis. As opposed to the Jim Crow era of white hoods and lynch mobs, 21st century American bigotry is now more often an unseen crime of the subtle and the reflexive — and the crime scene tends to be the shadowy nuances of hiring decisions, performance evaluations and plausible deniability.

Thankfully, though, we now have baseball to help shine a light on the problem so that everyone can see it for what it really is.

Today, Major League Baseball games using the QuesTec computerized pitch-monitoring system are the most statistically quantifiable workplaces in America. Match up QuesTec’s accumulated data with demographic information about who is pitching and who is calling balls and strikes, and you get the indisputable proof of how ethnicity does indeed play a part in discretionary decisions of those in power positions.

This is exactly what Southern Methodist University’s researchers did when they examined more than 3.5 million pitches from 2004 to 2008. Their findings say as much about the enduring relationship between sports and bigotry as they do about the synaptic nature of racism in all of American society.

First and foremost, SMU found that home-plate umpires call disproportionately more strikes for pitchers in their same ethnic group. Because most home-plate umpires are white, this has been a big form of racial privilege for white pitchers, who researchers show are, on average, getting disproportionately more of the benefit of the doubt on close calls.

Second, SMU researchers found that “minority pitchers reacted to umpire bias by playing it safe with the pitches they threw in a way that actually harmed their performance and statistics.” Basically, these hurlers adjusted to the white umpires’ artificially narrower strike zone by throwing pitches down the heart of the plate, where they were easier for batters to hit.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the data suggest that racial bias is probably operating at a subconscious level, where the umpire doesn’t even recognize it.

To document this, SMU compared the percentage of strikes called in QuesTec-equipped ballparks versus non-QuesTec parks. Researchers found that umpires’ racial biases diminished when they knew they were being monitored by the computer.

Same thing for high-profile moments. During those important points in games when umpires knew fans were more carefully watching the calls, the racial bias all but vanished. Likewise, the same-race preference was less pronounced at high-attendance games, where umps knew there would be more crowd scrutiny.

Though gleaned from baseball, these findings transcend athletics by providing a larger lesson about conditioned behavior in an institutionally racist society.

Whether the workplace is a baseball diamond, a factory floor or an office, when authority figures realize they are being scrutinized, they are more cognizant of their own biases — and more likely to try to stop them before they unduly influence their behavior. But in lower-profile interludes, when the workplace isn’t scrutinized and decisions are happening on psychological autopilot, pre-programmed biases can take over.

Thus, the inherent problem of today’s pervasive “post-racial” fallacy. By perpetuating the lie that racism doesn’t exist, pretending that bigotry is not a workplace problem anymore, and resisting governmental efforts to halt such prejudice, we create the environment for our ugly subconscious to rule. In doing so, we consequently reduce the potential for much-needed self-correction.

      Copyright 2011 Creators.com
David Sirota is a best-selling author whose upcoming book “Back to Our Future” will be released in March of 2011. He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado.

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Why body bags prompt support for war September 19, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Media, War.
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Roger’s note: those of us who experienced the Vietnam slaughter remember the notorious episode where CBS, under pressure from Lyndon Johnson, refused to allow Pete Seeger to sing the anti-war song, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the notorious (ly wonderful) Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.  “We were knee deep in The Big Muddy / But the Big Fool said to push on.” 

 Full lyrics are posted below the article.

//
Monday, Sep 19, 2011 14:01 ET

Research confirms the pathology of staying the course

By David Sirota

 

“One of the things that’s very important … is to never allow our youngsters to die in vain. And I’ve made the pledge to their parents. Withdrawing from the battlefield of Iraq would be just that. And it’s not going to happen under my watch.” — George W. Bush, April 14, 2004

In this memorable quote — which was one of many similar statements –George W. Bush gave us probably history’s most explicit example of how the “sunk cost” argument suffuses today’s national security politics.

While logic suggests mounting casualties should be a reason to end wars, the “sunk cost” phenomenon posits that the more casualties a nation suffers during a war, the more that nation is psychologically committed to the war. The idea is that because we simply don’t want to face the possibility that our countrymen “died in vain,” our natural instinct is to not only push away evidence that they died for lies (WMD), misguided theories (the Vietnam “domino” effect) or petty personal vendettas (“this is the guy who tried to kill my dad!”), we also are prone to “stay the course” for that elusive victory that will supposedly make all the blood and pain and suffering worth it. As Sen. Barack Obama said in criticizing the Bush administration in 2007, the sunk-cost phenomenon basically says, “We’re doubling down; we’re going to keep on going … because now we’ve got a lot in the pot and we can’t afford to lose what we put in the pot.”

Behavioral economists have long hypothesized about this psychological pathology in many different parts of human interaction. In investing, it’s called “throwing good money after bad.” In casino gambling, it’s refusing to cut your losses, and instead trying to big-bet your way back to profitability. I could go on with examples, but you know what I’m talking about because you’ve seen it in your own life.

Until now, the “sunk-cost” impulse was seen as entirely reflexive — a natural human reaction hard-wired into our brains and therefore determinative of our politics, whether we like it or not. But this week, a social psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis published the results of a study that is “thought to be the first non-anecdotal demonstration of the ‘activation’ of the sunk-cost effect”–and how that activation can be entirely manufactured.

Here’s the crux of their findings:

Subjects were put into two groups; in one they were asked to solve three decisions, all related to sunk-cost effects; in the other, they solved three different problems, not related to sunk costs …

Those participants exposed to the sunk-cost scenarios unknowingly were being primed to think of the aversiveness of throwing away previous investments, what Lambert calls “the don’t-waste” goal.

In Phase II of the experiment, all subjects were assigned one of two short reading assignments: One assignment was about war casualties, the other about the weather. Next, all subjects took an attitude questionnaire of 25 generic questions about the particular war. Lambert and his group found that those subjects exposed to the don’t-waste goal who read the story about war casualties tended to be significantly more in favor of the war than those controls who weren’t primed the same way.

 

Considering this, we see that standard calls by politicians to “stay the course” lest we “allow our youngsters to die in vain” are less reflections of the country’s natural psyche than sophisticated efforts to artificially “prime” that psyche for an emotional lurch toward a desired pro-war policy position.

With the Obama administration now threatening to break its Iraq withdrawal promises, and with the Afghanistan war still going strong in the face of record casualties, this priming remains powerful. Though the current president (to his credit) isn’t explicitly referencing the “sunk-cost” effect in his rhetoric, that effect still defines our emotional reactions to yet more militarist status quo.

For conservative warmongers, that emotional reaction means remaining steadfastly behind these conflicts, painful consequences be damned. For liberals and independents naturally suspicious of the wars, it means opposing the conflicts in theory (as polls show the country does), but giving up the kind of intense protests and activism that marked those early war years before the costs and casualties skyrocketed — that is, before the huge costs were “sunk” into the endeavors.

The result is exactly the neoconservatives’ original desired effect — a kind of passive preference for “stay the course.” Indeed, we are now so programmed to see news of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan as reason to continue those wars — so fearful of “losing” our investment of blood and treasure — that we barely even discuss what “winning” actually means.

  • David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at http://www.davidsirota.com. More: David Sirota

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

Words & Music : Pete Seeger
TRO © 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY

It was back in nineteen forty-two

I was a member of a good platoon

We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,

One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,

That’s how it all begun.

We were — knee deep in the Big Muddy,

But the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, “Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?”

“Sergeant, go on!  I forded this river

‘Bout a mile above this place.

It’ll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.

We’ll soon be on dry ground.”

We were — waist deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, “Sir, with all this equipment

No man will be able to swim.”

“Sergeant, don’t be a Nervous Nellie,”

The Captain said to him.

“All we need is a little determination;

Men, follow me, I’ll lead on.”

We were — neck deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool said to push on.

All at once, the moon clouded over,

We heard a gurgling cry.

A few seconds later, the captain’s helmet

Was all that floated by.

The Sergeant said, “Turn around men!

I’m in charge from now on.”

And we just made it out of the Big Muddy

With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body

Stuck in the old quicksand.

I guess he didn’t know that the water was deeper

Than the place he’d once before been.

Another stream had joined the Big Muddy

‘Bout a half mile from where we’d gone.

We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy

When the big fool said to push on.

Well, I’m not going to point any moral;

I’ll leave that for yourself

Maybe you’re still walking, you’re still talking

You’d like to keep your health.

But every time I read the papers

That old feeling comes on;

We’re — waist deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a

Tall man’ll be over his head, we’re

Waist deep in the Big Muddy!

And the big fool says to push on!

Words and music by Pete Seeger (1967)

TRO (c) 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY

 

Democrats mimic GOP sleight-of-hand March 20, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Health.
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Friday, Mar 19, 2010 17:20 EDT

They’re selling huge giveaways to insurance companies and Big Pharm as reform that helps the middle class

By David Sirota, www.salon.com

Ever since Thomas Frank published his book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Democrats have sought a political strategy to match the GOP’s. The healthcare bill proves they’ve found one.

Whereas Frank highlighted Republicans’ sleight-of-hand success portraying millionaire tax cuts as gifts to the working class, Democrats are now preposterously selling giveaways to insurance and pharmaceutical executives as a middle-class agenda. Same formula, same fat-cat beneficiaries, same bleating sheeple herded to the slaughterhouse. The only difference is the Rube Goldberg contraption that Democrats are using to tend the flock.

First, their leaders campaign on pledges to create a government insurer (a “public option”) that will compete with private health corporations. Once elected, though, Democrats propose simply subsidizing those corporations, which are (not coincidentally) filling Democratic coffers. Justifying the reversal, Democrats claim the subsidies will at least help some citizens try to afford the private insurance they’ll be forced to buy — all while insisting Congress suddenly lacks the votes for a public option.

Despite lawmakers’ refusal to hold votes verifying that assertion, liberal groups obediently follow orders to back the bill, their obsequious leaders fearing scorn from Democratic insiders and moneymen. Specifically, MoveOn, unions and “progressive” nonprofits threaten retribution against lawmakers who consider voting against the bill because it doesn’t include a public option. The threats fly even though these congresspeople would be respecting their previous public-option ultimatums — ultimatums originally supported by many of the same groups now demanding retreat.

Soon it’s on to false choices. Democrats tell their base that any bill is better than no bill, even one making things worse, and that if this particular legislation doesn’t pass, Republicans will win the upcoming election — as if signing a blank check to insurance and drug companies couldn’t seal that fate. They tell everyone else that “realistically” this is the “last chance” for reform, expecting We the Sheeple to forget that those spewing the do-or-die warnings control the legislative calendar and could immediately try again.

Predictably, the fear-mongering prompts left-leaning establishment pundits to bless the bill, giving Democratic activists concise-yet-mindless conversation-enders for why everyone should shut up and fall in line (“Krugman supports it!”). Such bumper-sticker mottos are then demagogued by Democratic media bobbleheads and their sycophants, who dishonestly imply that the bill’s progressive opponents 1) secretly aim to aid the far right and/or 2) actually hope more Americans die for lack of healthcare. In the process, the legislation’s sellouts are lambasted as the exclusive fault of Republicans, not Democrats and their congressional majorities.

Earth sufficiently scorched, President Obama then barnstorms the country, calling the bill a victory for “ordinary working folks” over the same corporations he is privately promising to enrich. The insurance industry, of course, airs token ads to buttress Obama’s “victory” charade — at the same time its lobbyists are, according to Politico, celebrating with chants of “We win!”

By design, pro-public-option outfits like Firedoglake and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee end up depicted as voices of the minority, even as they champion an initiative that polls show the majority of voters support. Meanwhile, telling questions hang: If this represents victory over special interests, why is Politico reporting that “drug industry lobbyists have huddled with Democratic staffers” to help pass the bill? How is the legislation a first step to reform, as proponents argue, if it financially and politically strengthens insurance and drug companies opposing true change? And what prevents those companies from continuing to increase prices?

These queries go unaddressed — and often unasked. Why? Because their answers threaten to expose the robbery in progress, circumvent the “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” contemplation and raise the most uncomfortable question of all:

What’s the matter with Democrats?

© 2010 Creators.com

Obama, the healthcare Riddler May 16, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health.
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obama health care

David Sirota

www.salon.com, May 16, 2009

Why is the president suddenly so afraid of a single-payer solution to America’s healthcare crisis?

May 16, 2009 | The most stunning and least reported news about President Barack Obama’s press conference with health industry executives this week wasn’t those executives’ willingness to negotiate with a Democrat. It was that Democrat’s eagerness to involve those executives in a discussion about healthcare reform even as they revealed their previous plans to pilfer $2 trillion from Americans.

That was the little-noticed message from the made-for-TV spectacle that administration officials called a healthcare “game changer”: In saying they can voluntarily slash $200 billion a year off the country’s medical bills over the next decade and still preserve their profits, healthcare companies implicitly acknowledged they were plotting to fleece consumers and have been fleecing them for years. With that acknowledgment came the tacit admission that the industry’s business is based not on respectable returns, but on grotesque profiteering and waste — the kind that can give up $2 trillion and still guarantee huge margins.

Chief among the profiteers at the White House event were insurance companies, which have raised premiums by 119 percent since 1999, and one obvious question is why — why would Obama engage those particular thieves?

It’s a difficult query to answer, because Obama is a healthcare mystery, struggling to muster consistent positions on the issue.

Listening to a 2003 Obama speech, it’s hard to believe he has become such an enigma. Back then, he declared himself “a proponent of a single-payer universal healthcare program” — that is, one eliminating private insurers and their overhead costs by having government finance healthcare. Obama’s position was as controversial then as it is today — which is to say, controversial among political elites, but not among the general public. ABC’s 2003 poll showed almost two-thirds of Americans desiring a single-payer system “run by the government and financed by taxpayers,” just as CBS’s 2009 poll shows roughly the same percentage today.

In that speech six years ago, Obama said the only reason single-payer proponents should tolerate delay is “because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”

That might explain why, when Illinois contemplated a 2004 healthcare proposal raising insurance lobbyists’ “fears that it would result in a single-payer system,” those lobbyists “found a sympathetic ear in Obama, who amended (read: gutted) the bill more to their liking,” according to the Boston Globe. Maybe Obama didn’t think single-payer healthcare was achievable without a Democratic Washington. And when in a 2006 interview he told me he was “not convinced that [single-payer healthcare] is the best way to achieve universal healthcare,” perhaps he was following the same rationale, considering his insistence that he must “take into account what is possible.”

Of course, even as a senator aiming for the “possible” in a Republican Congress, Obama promised to never “shy away from a debate about single payer.” And after the 2008 election fulfilled his precondition of Democratic dominance, it was only logical to expect him to initiate that debate.

That’s why the White House’s current posture is so puzzling. As the Associated Press reports, Obama aides are trying to squelch any single-payer discussion, deploying their healthcare point-person, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to announce that “everything is on the table with the single exception of single-payer.”

So it’s back to why — why Obama’s insurance-industry-coddling inconsistency? Is it a pol’s payback for campaign cash? Is it an overly cautious lawmaker’s paralysis? Is it a conciliator’s desire to appease powerful interests? Or is it something else?

For a president who spends so much time on camera answering questions, those have become the biggest unanswered questions of all.

© 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Is Obama’s Car Czar Plotting to Crush the Auto Unions? April 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Labor.
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By David Sirota, Blog for Our Future. Posted March 1, 2009, www.alternet.org

Obama put corporate raider Steve Rattner in charge of overseeing the auto industry and his “plan” seems to be to crush the autoworkers.

Remember Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street? Specifically, remember how Gekko’s entire scheme for the airline industry was based on crushing the blue-collar union that Bud Fox’s dad (Martin Sheen) was part of? Welcome to a real life version of that story, starring corporate raider Steve Rattner, who President Obama appointed to head the White House team now overseeing the auto industry (and don’t say you weren’t warned).

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Rattner’s strategy is to use the government’s leverage to try to specifically crush auto workers and force them to accept even more contract concessions than they’ve already agreed to:

DETROIT — President Barack Obama’s recovery plan for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC appears to take aim at union retirees, a usually reliable Democratic constituency. After studying the plight of the companies, the president’s auto task force concluded GM and Chrysler’s survival is dependent on greater concessions from the United Auto Workers union.

The White House has total leverage over the situation because the UAW knows that if the industry doesn’t get the loans it needs, it will be forced into bankruptcy court, where judges will shred labor contracts (somehow, AIG bonus contracts are sacrosanct, but union worker contracts can be shredded in a heartbeat). Indeed, many analysts believe this is the administration’s ultimate goal.

IMHO, The most immoral part of this is the specific targeting of retirees.

As opposed to younger workers, retirees often can’t get another job or go back to work because of obvious physical limitations. As one retiree said, “What 85-year-old can go out and get another job?”

I’m not saying that the auto industry’s legacy costs are sustainable – not at all. But I am saying that when you put Gordon Gekko in control of government policy overseeing an industry, you are inevitably going to get a policy that assumes workers are the big problem. If you had a different kind of team, you may have a policy that says, for instance, we have to create a robust universal health care system before throwing retirees off their existing health care.

Last I checked, we have enough money to create that system just lying around ready to be handed out to Rattner’s Wall Street friends. Hell, $8 trillion will get us a damn good universal health care system, won’t it? Yes, it will – but it will also buy a lot of yachts for AIG execs, and when you have Gordon Gekko making public policy yachts come before health care.
David Sirota is a best-selling author whose newest book, “The Uprising,” was just released this month. He is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network — both nonpartisan organizations. His blog is at www.credoaction.com/sirota.

A Team of Zombies February 6, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War.
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Feb 6, 2009, www.truthdig.com

By David Sirota

Only weeks ago, the political world was buzzing about a “team of rivals.” America was told that finally, after years of yes-men running the government, we were getting a president who would follow Abraham Lincoln’s lead, fill his administration with varying viewpoints, and glean empirically sound policy from the clash of ideas. Little did we know that “team of rivals” was what George Orwell calls “newspeak”: an empty slogan “claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.”

Obama’s national security team, for instance, includes not a single Iraq war opponent. The president has not only retained George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, but also 150 other Bush Pentagon appointees. The only “rivalry” is between those who back increasing the already bloated defense budget by an absurd amount and those who aim to boost it by a ludicrous amount.

Of course, that lock-step uniformity pales in comparison to the White House’s economic team—a squad of corporate lackeys disguised as public servants.

At the top is Lawrence Summers, the director of Obama’s National Economic Council. As Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary in the late 1990s, Summers worked with his deputy, Tim Geithner (now Obama’s Treasury secretary), and Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel (now Obama’s chief of staff) to champion job-killing trade deals and deregulation that Obama Commerce Secretary-designate Judd Gregg helped shepherd through Congress as a Republican senator. Now, this pinstriped band of brothers is proposing a “cash for trash” scheme that would force the public to guarantee the financial industry’s bad loans. It’s another ploy “to hand taxpayer dollars to the banks through a variety of complex mechanisms,” says economist Dean Baker—and noticeably absent is anything even resembling a “rival” voice inside the White House.

That’s not an oversight. From former federal officials like Robert Reich and Brooksley Born, to Nobel Prize-winning economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, to business leaders like Leo Hindery, there’s no shortage of qualified experts who have challenged market fundamentalism. But they have been barred from an administration focused on ideological purity.

In Hindery’s case, the blacklisting was explicit. Despite this venture capitalist establishing a well-respected think tank and serving as a top economic adviser to Obama’s campaign, the Politico reports that “Obama’s aides appear never to have taken his bid [for an administration post] seriously.” Why? Because he “set himself up in opposition” to Wall Street’s agenda.

The anecdote highlights how, regardless of election hoopla, Washington is the same one-party town it always has been—controlled not by Democrats or Republicans, but by kleptocrats (i.e., thieves). Their ties to money make them the undead zombies in the slash-and-burn horror flick that is American politics: No matter how many times their discredited theologies are stabbed, torched and shot down by verifiable failure, their careers cannot be killed. Somehow, these political immortals are allowed to mindlessly lunge forward, never answering to rivals—even if that rival is the president himself.

Remember, while Obama said he wants to slash “billions of dollars in wasteful spending” at the Pentagon, his national security team is demanding a $40 billion increase in defense spending (evidently, the “ludicrous” faction got its way). Obama also said he wants to crack down on the financial industry, strengthen laws encouraging the government to purchase American goods, and transform trade policy. Yet, his economic team is not just promising to support more bank bailouts, but also to weaken “Buy America” statutes and make sure new legislation “doesn’t signal a change in our overall stance on trade,” according to the president’s spokesman.

Indeed, if an authentic “rivalry” was going to erupt, it would have been between Obama’s promises and his team of zombies. Unfortunately, the latter seems to have won before the competition even started.

David Sirota is the best-selling author of “Hostile Takeover” (2006) and “The Uprising” (2008). He is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future. Find his blog at OpenLeft.com or e-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com.

© 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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