Tag: Bernie Sanders

Why Trump’s victory isn’t as shocking as the MSM would have us believe

By Daniel Margrain

For this writer, the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States didn’t come as a surprise. The same, however, could not be said of numerous “experts” and media political pundits, many of whom responded in shock and incredulity to the result in the early hours on November 9. Independent journalist, Neil Clark quoted one irate Oxford-educated columnist who tweeted:

“Just woke up. Jesus H Christ, America. What the f*** just done. You should be ashamed of yourselves.” 

For such “experts” the idea that ordinary American’s could have voted for a chauvinistic, misogynistic and demagogic racist as opposed to a what the media bubble perceived was Clinton’s modern liberal and humanist values and sense of dynastic self-entitlement, was inconceivable. The pollsters who were wrong about the 2015 UK general election, the EU Referendum and Corbyn’s election victory, predicted with near unanimity that Clinton would win as illustrated by CNBC in the graphic below.

Analysis of the polls prompted Dan Hodges, who has been wrong on virtually everything else, to make the following prediction on Twitter:

Meanwhile, hardcore anti-Corbyn ‘socialist’ and former adviser to Tony Blair, John McTernan tweeted:

The “expert” views above were largely predicated on what the polls were telling them. In view of the pollsters latest debacle, it must be increasingly obvious to the public that the purpose of the metropolitan media elite’s use of polls – which as Mark J Doran pointed out – “are expensive and have no shelf-life” – is to influence, rather than reflect, public opinion.

The notion that Trump’s flamboyant and largely inflammatory campaign was directed at a disillusioned, disenfranchised and alienated working class, while Clinton’s rather lackluster and robotic campaign was aimed towards a corporate-media elite, appeared to be beyond the understanding of the liberal-left broadsheets. Jonathan Freedland’s piece for the Guardian entitled, Who is to blame for this awful election?, for example, was written as if he had just ventured to earth from another planet.

At no point did Freedland make reference to Clinton’s complicit role in the destruction of Libya, the dismembering of Syria, her role in Honduras or the comments she made in relation to Palestinian elections. Neither, did he mention the disastrous domestic economic policies of the Obama administration and its fetishizing of neoliberalism, or the wider ratcheting-up by the establishment of anti-Russian propaganda. Instead, the politics of identity were preferred. It appeared to be beyond the comprehension of the Guardian journalist that one of the main reasons why the American people voted Trump into power was that the failed economic policies of his predecessors over the last two decades, have resulted in a fall in their incomes, while those at the top have increased

Neither, apparently, had Freedland considered that the de-industrialization and hollowing-out of U.S cities and the mass outsourcing of jobs, might actually equate to the American public voting for a politician who promised a major programme of investment in public infrastructure, a revitalization of industry and the creation of millions of jobs to boost a flailing economy akin to the New Deal. Nowhere were these factors mentioned in Freedland’s analysis. But perhaps most significantly of all, not a single reference was made in respect to the American public’s lack of any desire for a new cold war and military confrontation with Russia which Clinton’s rhetoric promoted, nor of the Wikileaks revelations of her e-mails proving “beyond reasonable doubt the extent of Hillary’s corruption.”

Predictably, recriminations from liberal academics and others followed the realization that Trump had won. Economist Paul Krugman, for example, exclaimed on Twitter:

“Btw, Jill Stein has managed to play Ralph Nader. Without her Florida might have been saved.”

Krugman’s tweet was a clear slur on all those who had the temerity to vote on principle for a candidate who was closer in ideology and policy to Sanders than Clinton.

Meanwhile, this is what @RachelleLefevre had to say on the subject:
“The numbers don’t lie: If you voted for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, you voted for Trump. You were told. Don’t ever tell yourself different.”
I responded to Rachelle’s tweet with:

“Let me guess. During the primaries, you favoured warmonger Clinton over the man who would have beaten Trump?”

This is important. The Democratic National Committee rigged the election against Bernie Sanders in order to ensure their favoured candidate, Clinton, would win. I’m almost certain that had Sanders run against Trump he would have won the race to the White House. So its somewhat rich for a Clinton supporter to be critical of people for voting for a third candidate on the basis that it split the Clinton vote.

There’s an argument to be had whether there’s a core element among Trump’s supporters motivated by the racist sentiments and crass economic nationalism expressed by the president-elect. It’s also legitimate to acknowledge the anti-intellectualism and ‘post-truth’ nature of modern society in which major grievances are embodied, for example, in the comments of Michael Gove and the public’s reaction to the High Court judgement regarding Brexit. But this is vastly overshadowed by the real socioeconomic concerns of the mass of working people in terms of the race towards the lowest wages, employment rights and working conditions in an era of neoliberal globalization.

It’s the latter that Freedland and other metropolitan elite commentators and journalists routinely fail to acknowledge in their articles and opinion pieces. The reason they fail to acknowledge it, is because they don’t understand what’s going on and totally underestimate the public’s disdain towards them. As Bernie Sander’s put it on Twitter:

It’s this failure to understand that contributes enormously to the rise of right-wing populist movements of which Trump’s electoral success exemplifies. The gap between what elite political commentators believe is credible on the one hand, and the reality on the ground on the other, is enormous. Unless this gap closes, corporate newspaper sales will continue to decline. With declining readership comes falling advertising revenues which means more newspapers going to the wall in the months and years ahead.

The rot at the heart of British society runs deeper than the travails of Philip Green

By Daniel Margrain

The news that serial tax dodger Philip Green bought his third luxury super-yacht for £100 million, a sum similar to the amount that was effectively sequestered from the BHS pension fund, and which was subsequently hid in tax havens wrecking the lives of thousands of his employees in the process, is symptomatic of the kind of rot that has spread throughout the high echelons of the ruling class. Like rising damp in an old building that spreads throughout the foundations before working its way through the brickwork until it eventually subsumes the entire edifice, Britain is currently suffering from another kind of infestation that of the ruling class “elite” whose unprecedented actions and decisions are undermining the rules and laws on which the proper functioning of a civilized society depend.

The biggest scandal isn’t about the corruption surrounding the Panama Papers, bankers and the revelations about Philip Green (as bad as they are), but about wealth inequality. Currently, the top 1 per cent own as much as 99 per cent of the rest of the world combined. What the Panama Papers revelations highlighted was just how unequal the world is. In his book, ‘The Hidden Wealth of Nations’, economist Gabriel Zucman estimates that worldwide, more than $7.5 trillion is stashed away in offshore accounts. As an indication of just how much that is, the sum amounts to some 8 per cent of the entire financial wealth of the world. About 80 per cent of that has not, and will not, be taxed at all, ever.

This level of tax avoidance increases the wealth gap between the rich and poor. Hiding vast sums of wealth from the prying eye of governments makes it easier for the super rich, represented by the 1 per cent, to remain rich and avoid tax policies which are meant to help the 99 per cent. Off-shore accounts also make it more difficult for everybody else to get rich because of the uneven playing field that results from these tax havens. The 99 per cent among the mainly middle income earners are paying higher taxes to make up for the taxes that the 1 per cent don’t pay.

Although on average slightly less than 8 per cent of all the financial wealth of the world is off-shore, Europe fares worse at 10 per cent. By contrast, off-shore financial wealth in Latin America stands at 20 per cent, in Africa the figure is 30 per cent and in Russia an incredible 50 per cent of all its financial wealth remains hidden off-shore. What all this indicates is the sheer scale of a problem that hits the developing world the hardest where the results for the very poorest who have no access to any form of social protection, can literally be death.

As far as Europe is concerned, the massive use of tax havens began in the 1920s in Switzerland. In Britain this trend became a feature of society around the mid-to-late 1970s. Numerous tax havens had began to spring up during this time which is when the great wealth disparity really started to make its mark. This was no accident. During this period, the function of the state began to change from that of ‘welfare provider’ to more ‘pro-business facilitator’. The ideology that came to embody this change was neoliberalism.

Instead of the direct provision of services administered democratically at the local level, the trend has increasingly been for the state to act as a purchaser of these services which have then been provided privately and indirectly. As each separate financial intermediary takes their slice of the financial pie, the temptation for corrupt practices becomes greater and the concentration of capital and deregulation of labour markets more acute.

With the balance of economic power tilted increasingly towards the rich who are able to buy the influence of politician’s, the impact on democracy has been devastating for millions of ordinary people. This hollowed out system of democracy is one in which the 99 per cent increasingly seem to find it difficult to find some personal and meaningful pattern in a social world dominated by huge and distant monoliths whose power over the livelihood of millions seems absolute.

This explains the growing popularity of ‘unorthodox’ politician’s like Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sander’s and even to an extent, Donald Trump, who offer the electorate an alternative to the ‘business as usual’ politics of the corporate controlled political machine. However, until a distinct break with the current system occurs, the masses are faced with the prospect of more of the same neoliberal ideology predicated on austerity.

Contrary to popular mythology, it wasn’t the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher which came to power in 1979 that invented neoliberalism, rather that distinction is reserved for the preceding Labour administration under James Callaghan. It was the Labour government, not the Tories, who accepted the terms of the austerity package proposed by the IMF in 1976. The main condition of the IMF loan, insisted on by the US Treasury, was that the government deficit must be reduced by cutting demand.

Interest rates were raised and government spending reduced. Wage, job and welfare cuts were the hallmark of the ‘social contract’ between wage labour and capital agreed by the unions to bail out the government. As Colin Leys notes:

“From 1976 onwards, Labour accordingly became ‘monetarist’. Its leaders accepted that full employment could no longer be achieved by government spending but must be sought through private sector growth. For the necessary investment to take place, prices must reflect real values, and this in turn required ‘squeezing’ inflation out of the system and permitting the free movement of capital. In 1978 Treasury officials began preparing to abolish capital controls.”

Spearheaded by the deregulation of the movement of capital, the breaking of the unions and the centralization of state power that favoured the corporations in the running of state enterprises, rates of inequality that had been reduced from the previous highs of the depression years of the late 1920s began to grow again. During the 1920s wealth disparity was huge. Then, as people at the top paid more taxes, and people in the middle began to earn more, the gap became increasingly smaller.

As the consensus between capital and wage labour started to go in reverse from about 1980, inequality began to increase steadily to 1920s levels which is roughly the point they are today. By the mid 1980s tax havens started to emerge in places like the Caymen Islands, Singapore, Hong Kong, Panama, Bermuda the British Virgin Islands and increasingly, London. All of the wealth located in these havens isn’t actually invested their. This means that the vast majority of people who live in, say, London, don’t benefit from foreign money that’s invested in, for example, property due to the massive rise in property prices that result from these investments.

So why do the 99 per cent put up with all this?

Many people tend to get distracted, whether that’s through working all the hours under the sun merely to survive, or through sports or other forms of leisure activities. Many others are angry but feel disconnected from the political process. The politicians, by contrast, benefit from the current situation so they are not motivated to change it, largely because they are immune from any effective political pressure from below.

The consequences for civil society that emanate from the combination of public apathy and apoplexy are potentially extreme. The lack of proper investment in public services like the NHS, social care, libraries and schools will end up with them collapsing. This is a process that to a large extent is already happening. The fact that the super rich have their money stashed away off-shore, while many among the poor don’t earn enough to pay tax in the first place, has resulted in an insufficient tax yield.

The reason why many people can’t get a prompt appointment with their GP, paving stones in the streets are cracked, their libraries are staffed by volunteers and there are pot holes on the roads that never get attended to, is directly linked to these factors. So while public services are being slashed on the one hand, people are increasingly having to pay for the ones that remain with money, in many cases, they haven’t got. If they are fortunate enough to have a job, it’s likely that their disposable income in real terms wouldn’t of increased in the last four decades.

Particularly for the young, the prospects of finding secure, fulfilling and well paid work is as remote now than it has been for at least 70 years and the situation is likely to get even worse as robots begin to replace many traditional blue collar and even white collar jobs. Leaving aside the threats posed by climate change, the underlying root cause of the problems society faces both now and in the coming period, is the inability of governments’ to take a long term approach to tackling levels of inequality that are so extreme that violent disorder on the streets may be the only language the politician’s will take note of.

New Hampshire rejects establishment politics

By Daniel Margrain

There appears to be a pattern emerging within conventional democratic politics that seems set to break the neoliberal stranglehold that has dominated the said politics over the last few decades that is nothing short of revolutionary. Symptomatic of this radical shift as far as Europe is concerned has been the electoral successes of left parties in countries like Spain, Greece and Britain. Illustrative of the break with the traditional centre-right polity in America has been the ascendancy of Bernie Sanders who surged to victory beating Hillary Clinton resoundingly in the Democratic New Hampshire primary.

Whereas Clinton’s voter demographic is largely restricted to those people who are over the age of 65 and who have a family income of more than $200,000, Sanders carries majorities with nearly all demographic groups that include both men and women and those with and without college degrees. The popularity of Sanders reflects an upsurge in the grass roots opposition to the pro-war neoliberal consensus within the Democratic Party and their framing of a triangulation ideology that began under Bill Clinton and continues with Obama.

A Parallel can be drawn here with the phenomenal rise in grass roots Labour Party membership in Britain that elected Sanders’ equivalent, Jeremy Corbyn as leader on the back of a wave of apoplexy and disenchantment with both the self-interested careerist Blairite rump within the Parliamentary Labour Party and the elite political class in general. What we are witnessing on both sides of the Atlantic is the political and media establishment’s attempt to hold on to the levers of corrupt political and corporate media power and the privileges that come with them.

To this end, the strategy of the latter is to restrict the flow of dissenting information that conflicts in a fundamental way with these powerful interests. Set against this mutually reinforcing system of power and privilege undermining democracy, is a tidal wave of public anger and bitterness. Significantly, during his victory speech, Sanders briefly alluded to the kind of collusion between the media and political establishments’ described and their corrupting influence:

“The people of New Hampshire have sent a profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way, to the media establishment.”

To my knowledge not a single mainstream media outlet has reported this part of Sanders’ speech. If one happens to be in any doubt that the liberal-left media in Britain is anything other than in thrall to the “feminist-progressive” and warmonger Clinton, than one need to look no further than the opinion pages of the Guardian. How the paper is able to reconcile its support for the neoconservative pro-Israeli hardliner predicated on her “feminism” can only be rationalized from the perspective of it’s usurpation to power.

As Craig Murray put it:

“The stream of “feminist” articles about why it would advance the cause of women to have a deeply corrupt right winger in the White House is steadily growing into a torrent. It is a perfect example of what I wrote of a month ago, the cause of feminism being hijacked to neo-conservative ends.”

In America last Sunday, CNN gave the Republican candidate, Donald Trump about half an hour of air time where he was able to call for waterboarding. He went on to state that he was in favour of much worse forms of illegal torture. Despite this, Trump’s comments went unchallenged by the CNN journalists whose role is clearly to promote him.

But as repugnant as the above is, it’s not the obvious differences between the right-wing extremism of Trump and other Republican’s compared to the democratic socialism of Sander’s that is the core issue voters are faced with in deciding whether to vote Democrat or Republican. Rather it’s the kind of cynical attempts of Clinton to disingenuously hitch on to the coat-tails of Sander’s for electoral gain depending on which way the prevailing wind is blowing, that contributes to left-wing voter fatigue that ultimately can only benefit the right.

Emphasizing the ideological distinction between himself and Clinton, Sanders said:

“What the American people are saying—and, by the way, I hear this not just from progressives, but from conservatives and from moderates—is that we can no longer continue to have a campaign finance system in which Wall Street and the billionaire class are able to buy elections. Americans—Americans, no matter what their political view may be, understand that that is not what democracy is about. That is what oligarchy is about. And we will not allow that to continue. I do not have a superPAC, and I do not want a super PAC.”

Former Democratic nominee, Arnie Arnesen, gives expression to this sentiment:

“What Bernie Sanders showed—and, to some extent, even Donald Trump has shown—is that this is no longer a time for establishment politics, that there is a problem. There is a disconnect between what they do and what they think and what the American people are feeling. Bernie tapped into that, not just in New Hampshire, but around the country.”

Fundamental to the popularity of Sanders has been his attack on the system that gave rise to the Wall Street banking scandal of which nothing short of a political revolution can resolve. He said that the problems in the United States stem from the fact that the country where mainly 62 American billionaires have the wealth of half the entire population of the world, is one of the most unequal and that he intends to do something about it:

“When the top one-tenth of 1% now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, that’s not fair. It is not fair when the 20 wealthiest people in this country now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American people…. Together we are going to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1%. And, when millions of our people are working for starvation wages, yep, we’re going to raise the minimum wage to $15 bucks an hour. And, we are going to bring pay equity for women.

And, when we need the best educated workforce in the world, yes, we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition free. And, for the millions of Americans struggling with horrendous levels of student debt, we are going to substantially ease that burden….The greed, the recklessness, and the illegal behavior drove our economy to its knees. The American people bailed out Wall Street, now it’s Wall Street’s time to help the middle class.”

Other progressive policy messages Sanders outlined in his speech on issues such as healthcare, climate change, foreign policy and minority rights, are similarly resonating within the Democratic Party and arguably further afield. In a desperate attempt to add some kind of (misguided) substance to her campaign, Hillary Clinton’s team called on former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. The “feminist” who, under Clinton’s husband during the Iraq debacle, asserted that U.S. policy objectives were worth the sacrifice of half a million Arab children, shamelessly invoked identity politics as a tactic intended to vilify women who voted for her Democrat opponent. “Women’s equality is not done”she said “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Almost certainly, what a significant amount of New Hampshire Democrats considered before they cast their votes was to evaluate both candidates’ voting record. Clinton’s record has been dogged by accusations of triangulating flip-flopping. This has been put sharply into focus by her sudden shift to the left on issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership soon after Sanders entered the race.

Certainly, her voting record on key issues, unlike that of her rival, has been less than stellar. From supporting the 2001 Patriot Act through to the Iraq and Syria interventions and many other issues there is very little, if anything, to distinguish her record from her Republican rivals.