Showing posts from February, 2016

Wall Street and Income Inequality

Regulating Wall Street is a side-show to the question of economic inequality. More regulation of Wall Street can prevent, we hope, a repetition of the financial crisis of 2008, but it will not, on its own, narrow the gap between the 1% and the rest of us. The difference between "reinstating Glass-Steagall" vs "strengthening Dodd-Frank" does not change life for ordinary Americans. And, sending some Wall Street executives to jail is just a satisfying fantasy.

The steps to start to equalize the income in the country are more basic: strengthening unions, raising the minimum wage, increasing social security benefits, further subsidizing the purchase of health insurance, expanding medicare, lowering the total cost of college education.

And, increasing the taxes on the wealthy and spending that money on public goods, which will indirectly raise the standard of living of the many: better school buildings, better education, better roads and bridges and public parks, better …

Presidents Make Lousy Leaders of Mass Movements

The theory of change that Bernie Sanders advocates is a "political revolution;" he wants increased mass mobilization in favor of broad reformist goals: universal health care, free public college, getting money out of politics, reining in Wall Street. He wants to turn his Presidential campaign into a social movement.

Is leading such mass mobilization something that the President can do well? Can the President go beyond using the "bully pulpit" to advocate for those causes. Sanders has called President Obama a "disappointment," but Obama has not been remiss in making speeches in favor of reforms.

Over the last eight years there has been a significant upsurge in militant social movements. Occupy and Black Lives Matter have put many people in the streets and placed new demands on the table. There has been a steady growth in email/social media based mass mobilizations across a wide range of issues and groups. The social movements are here. Would they be strong…

Trump, Sanders and Reich

As we move forward into TrumpWorld, everyone should familiarize themselves with the general argument made by Wilhelm Reich in The Mass Psychology of Fascism. (It's not just his hair that make him pertinent to discussions of Donald Trump.)  Reich analyzed why the German Left failed to stop the rise of Hitler despite the deteriorating living standards of the German people. He concluded that the failure was in the economism of the German Left. They talked about income, wages and living standards, but that appeal was less of interest to the Germans than the stuff of their psychosexual frustrations and fantasies. While the analysis of the latter was of its time, the general holds true. In times of great stress, people do not vote their pocketbook, but their ids.

This is why while Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump may appear to be speaking to the same anger over the decline of the middle class, income stagnation, and the sense that the economy no longer works for the ordinary person, San…

The Fruits of Rightwing Demonization

For 24 years now, the right wing in this country has been depending on gender and racial demonization as a way to emotionally bind the public to their program, even though their  program is contrary to most people's interests. Put another way, if people voted their economic interests, the GOP would be tiny. But economic interests are secondary to questions of identity stability and even sexual fantasy.  This is not a new insight; Wilhelm Reich analyzed the failure of the German left to prevent the rise of Hitler more than  three quarters a century ago. The German Left talked about wages and living standards; the Nazi Party appealed to a sexually repressed population and offered them a domineering, all powerful Father figure. While you can argue about the precise analysis of the unmet emotional needs that the Nazis manipulated, the lessons for the Left are still clear enough. It's stupid to think that it's just the economy.
For forty years, the Right in America said that th…

One More Thing that UU's Should Have learned

When the first openly GLBT ministers were being considered for settlement, and even when just the first openly GLBT minister was being considered for settlement in a particular church, we learned this: Homophobic people would say this: "You want us to pick a minister just because they are gay."  Or, "I don't want a minister who keeps telling us that they are gay." 

UU's learned that these were defensive deflections to defend old prejudices.

So, why would UU's respond to the exploration of sexism as it affects how people perceive Hillary Clinton with the same accusation, "You think people should vote for her just because she is a woman."

No, I plan to vote for her because she has been a progressive political leader for decades, and because she is personally tougher than almost everyone who has run for President before, because she is great foreign policy experience implementing Obama's post-Neocon policies and yes, because she is a woman, a…

The Always and Already Guilty Perps

The narrative about the Clintons, spun now for nearly a quarter century, is always the same. Whatever they are doing, they are up to no good. Give us enough time, give us enough documents, we will be able to prove what they are crooks. Until then, where there is smoke, there must be fire.

The transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street Firms are the new emails. Any document not in the public record must contain the smoking gun, the moment when she condemns Chris Stevens to death in Benghazi, or the moment when gives her quids to and picks up her quos from Wall Street moguls.

I recently re-read Toni Morrison's comments about Bill Clinton as America's first black President. As an aside, she points out the cultural signifiers, the saxophone,  the single mother, the junk food, but her main point is more relevant to us today.  Speaking of the pursuit of the then President, she says,  "The always and already guilty "perp" is being hunted down not by a prosecutor's …

New Leaders: Spiritually Grounded -- Landrum

The staff of MidAmerica Region of the UUA has put out a statement about what the "New Leader" of congregations will need to succeed, and they've begun a series of essays about their bullet points, the first three of which are currently available.  My response to the first point is available here on the Lively Tradition, and this is the second.  It's worth noting that theses are qualities of the new Leader not just the new Minister
2.  Spiritually grounded: Leaders understand what they believe or don’t believe and are aware of their need for connection to something larger than themselves; they are aware that they need to connect with a deeper core that gives them balance, intuition, and commitment. Back when I was preparing for ministry, the suggestion that a competent minister needs to be spiritually grounded would have been met by me with frustration -- and fear.  As an agnostic humanist, I believed that secretly this meant that people believed I should believe …

More On What We Have Learned

For 45* years now, I have been in white movements and organizations, both political and religious, that have been very anxious because black people took no interest in them. I have favored, in succession, most dead-end strategies to change that fact, and repeated every excuse and rationalization ever offered for their failure.

My experience is not special; almost every white progressive has had the same experiences over and over again. (45 years of experience or 1 year 45 times?) We have assumed a natural alliance between the movements for black liberation and the movements for progressive reform, but it's an assumption, a possibility, but not a fact.

It pains me no end to see Unitarian Universalist leaders enthusiastically endorse Bernie Sanders as he makes the same assumptions that we should know from our own experience are fatal to the cause.

Increasing the political power of working class and middle class people will not bring about an end to systemic racism. Almost every gre…

The Bernie Sanders Type

I am not saying that Bernie Sanders is a bad guy. If he is the nominee, believe me I will work for him. But if he wins the nomination without the support of African American voters and middle aged women, it won't be worth much, and it won't matter what I do.

I know Bernie by type, because I ,too, am Bernie: a white male radical who has
labored in the vineyards of progressive change in the USA since the days of college. There were quite a few of us. Some of us became academics; some of us went into local politics (like Bernie); some of us became ministers; some of us went into software; some of us became farmers. Some of us were scoundrels,, but most of us were good guys.

But we all had a blind spot. We were powered by our passion and by our analytical ability. We had an analysis. We could get to the core of the problems with our government and economy and we could describe them in crushing detail.

We could explain why half-way measures and milquetoast reforms would never solv…