[Marxism] Lamont and Lieberman in Connecticut

Haines Brown brownh at hartford-hwp.com
Thu Jul 6 09:04:15 MDT 2006

The Lamont-Lieberman race for Congress in Connecticut has won national
attention because it is a battle for the soul of the Democratic
party. Last evening I attended a forum for Lamont on the eve of their
only public debate. I prepared the following for two friends, one
being a closet socialist and admirer of Cuba, and who is a crucial
Lamont supporter, and the other an old-line Republican who will
shortly convey his reactions in his regular newspaper column.

The challenger to Lieberman, Tom Lamont, has a positive side. He
stands in sharp contrast with Lieberman because he is almost a New
Deal Democrat, with a major concern for education. His positions are
pretty conventionally liberal, but also rather cautious. This resulted
in a fuzzy warm feeling among most of those in attendance, but that
discourages us from using our brains.

For example, Lamont is in favor of universal health care as an ideal
goal safely off in some indefinite future, but in specific terms he
advocates requiring all employers to support health insurance. This is
hardly satisfactory, for it would not cover the very people most in
need; it would remain a privatized health care system that puts
profits before people; and it does not address the exploding costs of
medical treatment, which is an important reason employers are ceasing
to provide medical coverage in the first place. The degree to which
these employers (who, of course, dominate Congress) would accept the
burden of health care instead of making it a public responsibility, is
likely to be small. The real issue is a health system out of control
because it is privatized, not simply oiling the wheels of that
privatized system.

On many issues Lamont articulates a liberal position (such as getting
the troops out of Iraq), but he does not take the obvious step of
admitting that the only way to do it is to "cut and run" (admit defeat
and just leave, to let Iraq solve its own problems through civil
war). He still reflects the old Democratic pay-for-the
commonwealth-with-imperialism policy. He sees Iran as an enemy (which
is nonsense), he waffles on Israel (instead of condemning her), he is
shocked at North Korea (which is a country that needs our friendship).

It seems that Lamont is only upset with the method being used by Bush
to promote the empire, not with the empire itself. There are still our
(largely capitalist and imperialist) allies who remain our team,
fighting the bad guys (illiberal ideological or socialist regimes
which would hinder "free trade" or cause disorder that would make free
trade difficult). According to Lamont, we must continue to align with
the former to bring pressure to bear on the latter. Of course, the
liberal ideal of free trade can only tend to make traditional
capitalist countries yet richer in relation to much of the rest of the
world and therefore be a source of global instability and
injustice. It is liberalism that is the problem, and while Bush uses
illiberal means, his ends remain liberal. Lamont is as much on the
Bush team as Lieberman, differing only over tactics.

Lamont has a teaching background and is a successful capitalist. He is
not a fighter for the people and offers no credentials in support of
such a role. He came across as a bit inexperienced and naive, but this
is only disarming and makes us insufficiently cautious. It sounds nice
to hear that getting the troops out of Iraq and re-introducing a
progressive income tax can pay for salvaging social security and
building up public transportation to address the ecological crisis. He
may be logical, but either naively unaware of real power relations or,
more likely, seeks to hide them from sight in order to preserve them.

The US did not enter Iraq because of stupidity by Bush, but because
there were real (especially oil) interests pushing him to do
so. Getting the troops out is not the real challenge, but how to
prevail against such corporations as Halliburton. If the US preserves
its empire - its military global hegemony, undoubtedly it means that
another crisis is always just around the corner (Iran, North Korea,
North Africa, Central Asia, South America). This global military
hegemony and empire represents a far greater economic (and moral)
burden than the crisis of the moment in Iraq. The empire by its nature
generates crises. The aim should be an abandonment of that empire, and
Lamont gives no indication he wants to do it; the real powers in
Washington wouldn't let him do it in any case.

Abandonment of its empire would certainly lower the US standard of
living, but that commonwealth will probably continue its slide in any
case and is likely to collapse in the near future. The US empire is in
fact failing to lift the standard of living of most Americans, and it
is curtailing democracy and their civil liberties which may be more
important than whether the median standard of living goes up or down a
few percentage points. Clearly, the abandonment of empire at this
point would be less painful and less costly for most Americans than
trying blindly to preserve it. It is the rich and the capitalists who
really need the empire, not the American majority.

And as for a more progressive income tax, since it is the rich who
dominate Congress, they are unlikely to go along with any serious move
in that direction. The people with wealth are those who have the power
to change things, but it would be naive to assume that the majority of
them will voluntarily give up their advantage in order to transform
the quality of life for other Americans. What leverage does Lamont
offer to force them in that direction? Moral hectoring?  Lamont is a
successful capitalist and so says nothing about curtailing or even
eliminating that economic system. Instead, he proposes a progressive
tax that would reduce the personal income of capitalists, but not
affect the capitalist system at all, for it is a tax on personal
profits, not on capital.

Like a New Deal democrat, Lamont wants to restore the commonwealth at
home by maintaining the Western empire more intelligently abroad. He
is part of the problem, not the solution. The days for such a solution
are long over.

Haines Brown


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