[Marxism] Jeff Klein on Obama

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 12 08:19:05 MDT 2011

(A pleasant surprise. Jeff Klein was a Tecnica volunteer who 
joined me and several others in a needs assessment trip to 
southern Africa in early 1990. The organization eventually placed 
about 30 or so volunteers with the ANC and frontline states until 
it dissolved under the impact of the Sandinista electoral defeat 
that year. Jeff was a long-time member of the CPUSA at the time 
who had become "proletarianized" like so many SWP'ers. He was a 
machinist by trade but had an advanced degree in archaeology. 
Based on this article, I would conclude that he has left the party.)

Counterpunch August 12 - 14, 2011
High-Stakes Blackmail
"Malefactors of Great Wealth"


When I recalled that phrase recently, I was sure it had been 
coined by Franklin D. Roosevelt against the Big Business opponents 
of the New Deal. In fact, when I looked it up I was surprised to 
learn that the memorable words were used by Republican President 
Theodore Roosevelt in a speech at Provincetown, Mass, to accuse 
the "Trusts" of causing the financial "panic" of 1907. He went on 
to say:

     ". . . [these men] combine to bring about as much financial 
stress as possible, in order to discredit the policy of the 
government and thereby secure a reversal of that policy, so that 
they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own evil-doing. . . 
I regard this contest as one to determine who shall rule this free 
country—the people through their governmental agents, or a few 
ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly 
formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate 

Not a bad description of the political class war being waged by 
Wall Street and the extremists of the Right against the majority 
of us a century later.

So why can't a Democratic President talk about the "Malefactors of 
Great Wealth" who are responsible for the economic catastrophe we 
face today? Could it have something to do with the fact that 
wealthy individuals and corporations fund the expensive electoral 
campaigns of both political parties, and so ensure that the 
solutions supported by the majority of people – raising taxes on 
the wealthy and the corporations, putting people to work, ending 
the wars, protecting Social Security and Medicare -- are simply 
off the agenda? Fake Republican populism is allowed in our system, 
since it is easily deflected (by racism, among other means) away 
from the real perpetrators. Democratic populism is unacceptable, 
because it might be taken seriously.

Here's a truth: when people cannot identify the source of their 
troubles they are much more likely to accept a bad situation as a 
kind of natural disaster with no fault and no solution. That's why 
it is important to name the agents of our economic meltdown and 
the obstacles to common-sense budget policies: the big banks, the 
corporations and wealthy individuals who pay hardly any taxes, the 
profiteers and cheerleaders for endless wars -- and the 
politicians who serve them.

Words matter. When politicians talk about cutting programs 
overwhelmingly supported by the public they say "entitlement 
reform" to mask what they are about. It's not surprising that the 
Right and its media supporters would use that slippery euphemism, 
but the expression has also become the standard term in political 
discourse and the mainstream press among those who should know 
better. "Entitlement reform" allows folks naively to imagine that 
politicians are talking about ending giveaways to some "other" 
undeserving people. But what the so-called "reformers" want is 
simply to cut Social Security and Medicare. (Social Security, by 
the way, is paid for out of its own payroll taxes and has so far 
contributed not one dime to the deficit; Medicare costs are rising 
rapidly because of the inefficiencies and waste in our 
privately-run healthcare system, which costs on average double 
what any other country pays on a per capita basis and yields worse 
results in all the health indices – life expectancy, infant 
mortality, chronic diseases and access to medical treatment -- 
that can be measured.)

As high-stakes budget blackmail continues, and politicians of both 
parties sharpen their knives for the social programs most of us 
want, now is the moment to demand instead a focus on creating jobs 
and reviving the economy.

But how can we afford the big investments in infrastructure and 
education that will put people back to work? After all, we have a 
"debt crisis" with the credit rating of the US government 
downgraded and the stock market tanking because of excessive 
deficit spending, right? Actually not. Those right-wing 
fundamentalists who claim to believe in the magic of the market 
are quick to ignore its message when it challenges their cherished 
fantasies. The stock market is falling because of the pessimistic 
outlook for the US economy. Meanwhile, mountains of cash are 
streaming into the safe haven of "downgraded" US treasury notes – 
so much so that the government can now borrow whatever it needs at 
virtually no (or even negative!) interest rates when adjusted for 
inflation. That is, cash-flush individuals, banks and corporations 
are paying the US government to hold their money safely. There are 
just no mattresses big enough!

It has never been easier for the government to finance what is 
required to invest in our economy -- even before we are able to 
make the necessary cuts in war and military spending that are also 
needed. Serious economists calculate that the resulting growth 
will more than pay for the money we spend today as the jobs 
picture and the economy improve. And those infrastructure projects 
in mass transportation, clean energy, rebuilt roads and bridges 
(you name it) will continue to pay off well into the future. Think 
of it as a home improvement loan.

Jeff Klein is a retired machinist and former president of a 
NAGE-SEIU union local. He lives in Boston.

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