Monday, August 24, 2020

Arsenic or Strychnine? Choose your poison

The two Bernie Sanders campaigns has demonstrated the potential to rally millions to a progressive social-democratic agenda. Sanders even called his campaign “socialist,” a term which is no longer anathema to many younger Americans, although to characterize Sanders as a socialist is less than accurate, he is more a FDR New Dealer, but which nonetheless compared to the corporate Democrats makes Sanders appear as a revolutionary fire-brand. But he is decidedly not, for the simple reason that his political vision is about reforming capitalism, not abolishing it.

Support for Sanders exposed just how profoundly undemocratic the Democratic Party actually is. Sanders campaign debates has also exposed just how conservative Joe Biden actually is. For many voters the Sanders’ challenge has brought into sharper public focus what a Wall Street sycophant Biden remains. The Sandernistas nevertheless will vote for the “lesser evil” Biden over Trump in November. This was never ever a problem for Sanders who often stated he would support the Democratic Party candidate for president. It does, however, pose a difficulty for his supporters who endorsed his platform, one very different from Biden’s proposals.

For sure, Trump’s “populism” is just pure demagoguery, a bogus prescription for the ills of capitalism sold by a racist and ultra-nationalist—a billionaire capitalist—who trades in scapegoating and fear-mongering of the proverbial “other” to promote himself as a political savior. But Trump is really only a little less vulgar politically than Biden. Does it matter that he supported the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq? Does it matter that he supported global assassinations by drone as an instrument of foreign policy? Does it matter he has stood as an unabashed apologist for Israel’s repeated aggression against the Palestinians? Does anyone seriously believe Joe Biden will do anything to challenge this growing economic divide, the increasing concentration of financial wealth in the hands of a very few?

For those galvanized Sanders supporters, how will the spirit of activism for social and economic justice be sustained after their candidate endorsed a conservative Democrat, another cheer-leader for Wall Street and the global American empire, for president? The idea that the Democratic Party can be transformed from an instrument of Wall Street into a party that fights the class war for the cause of the working people of America is a delusion.

American nationalism is not a harmless pageant but national triumphalism. In most countries the national anthem is played only at international events, not at domestic games. Saluting the flag and making a pledge of allegiance to one’s nation in schools are practices usually reserved for dictatorships. What is American “exceptionalism” that places it above and outside accepted international law? Donald Trump, has promised to deport every last one of the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States, the whole lot of them, while as a bonus banning Muslims from the country.

How did Trump get really rich? His answer is in his book "The Art of the Deal." Our answer is much simpler. Trump's father, Fred. Donald Trump went from rich to even richer, which is very much more easily accomplished than rags to riches.

Trump's father found a government program that provided funds for private builders to build housing for lower and middle-income people. Trump Snr. got a loan of $10.3 million from the Federal Housing Administration and then built the required houses, Shore Haven Apartments, for about $1 million less than that. Fred Trump had found a cash cow, and a way to milk it, and he kept on milking it until he was one of the biggest landlords in New York's outer boroughs.

Donald Trump initially intended to follow in dad's footsteps and go big on the housing loan program, constructing low- and middle-income housing in Manhattan. Unfortunately for Trump New York City canceled the program in 1975 - just as he was about to get his hands on the udder teats.

Where Trump did shine was in his Manhattan real estate investments. But here again, the key wasn't deals. In this case, he inherited control and eventually one-quarter ownership of a family organization worth about $200 million in 1974, and invested heavily in Manhattan. Back in 1974, $200 million was worth something: close to $800 million in today's money. Manhattan real estate took off in a spectacular fashion - average land prices went up by well over 6,000% between 1973 and the present day. That means Trump could have bought pieces of Manhattan real estate at random - and at fair market prices without bothering to negotiate - and still achieved those returns. To this day, despite all of his other business ventures, New York real estate makes up about 60% of the value of his personal portfolio. For sure had Trump bet his millions of dollars in capital on a property recovery in Detroit, his life story would have been rather different.

Backing Joe Biden — no matter how hard you hold your nose — will not do: Voting for Biden solidifies the notion that no matter how regressive a figure the Democratic Party nominates, progressives and others will vote for them. This mindset turns voters into robots. While Biden stresses what he allegedly shares a lot in common with Sanders, he is entrenched with the establishment with  ties to Wall Street, corporate power and hawkish U.S. foreign policy. There is every indication that a Biden presidency would be a major boost to corporate and Wall Street control over the U.S. and the world — as well as a major boost to perpetual U.S. wars into the coming decades with quite certain devastating results.

Voters need to have “somewhere to go” or they will continue to be a play-thing of the elites like Trump, playing a reality-TV role that actor-cum-president Ronald Reagan would have been proud of. Or such as Biden, adopting whatever position that will garner him more votes. There is a discernible populism spreading through the United States that rejects Establishment politicians. Just where it eventually ends up cannot be predicted. We do, however, confidently predict that neither Trump or Biden will run capitalism in the interest of the vast majority who make up the working class in America.

Whoever wins in November, the American ruling class will have been successful. It is virtually indisputable that whoever in the Oval Office the capitalist class will continue to do their utmost to get more out of us for less by intensifying the exploitation process and attacking our living standards. This can only set the scene for the intensification of class struggle, a struggle which is our only hope in resisting the attacks of capital. But no-one should be in any doubt that the only way that our problems can be really solved is when such a defensive class struggle transforms itself into a pro-active struggle which finally abolishes capitalism itself.

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