A Florida State Senator Protests, “I’m not a f***ing socialist”

Who are the socialists, really? The people who want you to be in debt for most if not all of your life, that’s who.

I’ve noticed in the last election, that the word “socialist” resonated throughout the GOP campaigns. Trump tagged Democrats as socialist over and over again. He made it clear that anyone who was a Democrat was a socialist in his mind. As a result of Trump’s efforts, many down-ballot Democrats found themselves being tarred as socialists. What Trump did was to clear the way for Republicans to do what they do best: quietly lobby for the banks.

Politico ran an article just yesterday about the terrible drubbing Democrats got in Florida, and the lede was about a state senator who defended himself by saying that he’s not a socialist. In that article, Jason Pizzo, one of the few Democrats who survived an electoral rout in the Florida Senate, has this to say during an interview after a conference call among the elite Democrats in the Sunshine State:

“I’m not a f — -ing socialist. My life is a manifestation of the American dream. I believe in free markets.”

I’ve been looking at the election and our politics from behind a new set of lenses. I’ve been reading articles and books about and by people like Ellen Brown, Stephanie Kelton, Michael Hudson, and Dean Baker. Brown promotes public banking and removing or reducing the enormous profits that banks make and putting them back into the economy. Kelton promotes MMT and the idea that our taxes don’t really pay for the government, our taxes regulate inflation. Hudson is a historian who has pieced together 5,000 years of history to show that money wasn’t invented by individuals who got tired of bartering, it was invented by the very first governments. Dean Baker is an economist who has been telling us for years that the inequality we must contend with now is a result of how the rules are written, not how the economy actually works.

When I look across our politics I see one central theme: debt. To see the divide in our politics we only need to see who loans the money and who pays it back with interest. The divide in our politics is between the creditor and the debtor. Who makes out like bandits regardless of the state of the economy? The bankers. Who has the greatest influence on our politics? The bankers. Which industry takes the biggest chunk out of the economy? The bankers.

So when I see a congressman protest that he’s not a socialist, I see someone who hasn’t really touched upon the root of most of our problems, debt. I see someone who doesn’t know who the real socialists are. The real socialists in America are the people who have the power to write the rules. These same people have the greatest influence over our elected representatives where the concentration of power is the highest: The United States Congress.

See all the division, vitriolic political debate, and rioting? That’s a feature, not a bug. All that hubris is designed to distract us from what is really going on. We are ruled by bankers who have zero interest in changing the rules now. They have zero interest in restoring anything that resembles equality. The extreme inequality we see in our economy now is a feature of the economy that bankers designed. I’m channeling you, Jamie Dimon. He thinks he’s going to work for Joe Biden.

Dean Baker is an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and a visiting economics professor at the University of Utah. I’ve read many of Dean Baker’s books and articles and all of them have one central theme: extreme inequality in America is a result of policy choices, not how the economy actually works. Here is a recent example from his blog, Beat The Press:

There is a conventional story that dominates economic and policy discussions, in which people without college degrees (still a majority of the workforce) have lost out because they don’t have the right skills to prosper in today’s high-tech global economy.

That is nonsense. The high-tech global economy was deliberately structured to redistribute income away from workers without college degrees to those at the top.

In short, Baker is saying that inequality is built into our rules. It’s designed to provide a preference to one class of people over another, probably as a means of maintaining something that the former host of The Daily Show Jon Stewart called, “wealth incumbency”. Baker tells us in all of his books and nearly all of his articles that wealthy people want us to believe they’re wealthy because that’s how the economy works, and that it has nothing to do with how the rules are written. In his book, “Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer”, Baker elaborates on this point a little more:

Markets are never just given. Neither God nor nature hands us a worked-out set of rules determining the way property relations are defined, contracts are enforced, or macroeconomic policy is implemented. These matters are determined by policy choices. The elites have written these rules to redistribute income upward. Needless to say, they are not eager to have the rules rewritten — which means they also have no interest in even having them discussed.

Somebody has to make the rules. In America, a certain minority has figured out a way to take control of the rulemaking process and to use it for their benefit. How long has this kind of thing been going on? At least since 1200 BC, according to Michael Hudson. Here’s a little more information about Mr. Hudson:

Michael Hudson is President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of J is for Junk Economics (2017), Killing the Host (2015), The Bubble and Beyond (2012), Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003), Trade, Development and Foreign Debt (1992 & 2009) and of The Myth of Aid (1971), amongst many others.

In an interview posted on YouTube, “Michael Hudson on the History of Debt Cancellation, Austerity in Europe & Rental Costs”, Hudson made the following comments (transcript at Naked Capitalism):

The German firm Springer just published a Handbook of Money and Credit, in which I wrote the lead article on the origins of money, showing that the barter theory was made up by right-wing Austrian economists who hated governments acting in the public interest. Almost all the mainstream monetary theories are by right-wing anti-socialists claiming that government can play no positive role at all. Their conclusion is that money is best without government, and should be left to the private banks. The idea is that they would plan society better. So basically the libertarians, the free-enterprise boys, advocate a highly centralized economy — much more centralized than Soviet Russia, much more centralized than China. They want everything centralized in Wall Street or the City of London, that is, in the banks. They want the banks to be in charge of everything. They say that all this is all for the best.

Huh. A “highly centralized economy”, more centralized than the Soviets or China? Isn’t that a hallmark of socialism? Wait. But these are conservatives and libertarians wanting this centralized economy. Conservatives are OK with this because it’s in the hands of private banks, not public banks. Who are the socialists now?

There is more. Hudson has been studying economics going back 5,000 years. He sees the same thing that Dean Baker sees, only over a much longer period of history. In his book, “…and forgive them their debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption From Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year (1) (Tyranny of Debt)”, he had this to say on page 334:

Acceptance of a polarizing status quo and weakening fiscal position is abetted by civic religion or secular ideology defending any given distribution of land and financial wealth as be a result of nature (or “the market”). No matter how unequal this distribution of wealth becomes, the alternative is said to be anarchy and collapse — as if the main cause of system collapse throughout most recorded history has not actually been over-indebtedness and the transfer of land to large appropriators.

Widening inequality is claimed to be natural as if no countervailing power of government could promote more widespread prosperity. this rationalization of an inequitable status quo has no room to acknowledge the historical success of policies that have deterred inequality from developing to the point of impoverishing the poor, or that have reversed such polarization when it does develop.

Here again, we see a common theme between two economists, one focused on modern history, the other focused on ancient history. They have both spotted the same thing in economies old and new: inequality is cooked into the books by the wealthy, and the wealthiest of the wealthy are the bankers.

I had a friend who used to read Latin dictionaries for fun. He learned Latin and used his knowledge of Latin to read ancient texts about the politics of that time. His conclusion? “Same shit, different day.”

So when I hear of Donald Trump calling out yet another Democrat as a socialist, I wonder what he is trying to distract us from. Trump is a man who has benefited handsomely from the system as it is. I sincerely doubt he has any intention or motivation to change the system to benefit the rest of us. But if Trump were actually interested in changing the way things are, there might a good reason that most politicians are quiet about the real reason for extreme inequality in America (from the same interview referenced above):

Well, the right-wing economic fashion in the United States is that of Douglass North following the Austrian school, saying that civilization progresses if there is a sanctity of contracts. A contract is a contract, and you need enforcement, even if the contract is unfair. Therefore, you must not cancel debts, because that would cheat the wealthy people who’ve made the contract to get their money, even if enforcing the debt contract means that the rest of the economy has to starve. Suicide rates go up. The economy impoverishes itself. But a contract is a contract, and that’s called progress, as if it’s Darwinian economics.

In Bronze Age antiquity, by contrast, rulers put economic balance as being the key consideration. They recognized that you have to have a palatial or civic authority come in to cancel the debt contracts. If the price of making the debtors pay these contracts –which they’re forced to sign under “Your money or your life” conditions — is to cause economic collapse, as it ultimately did in Rome. For five centuries you had economic revolts of the plebeians and the poor wanting debt cancelation. In every case the right wing, the creditors won — not by argument, but by assassinating populist political leaders. They ended up killing Caesar. Long before that, there was century after century of assassination, for instance the Gracchi brothers and a long series of other reformers, just like today.

Huh. Assassination? Well, I guess that would be a very good reason not to be identified as a socialist, compassionate for the poor, or to be against keeping people in debt for the rest of their lives. So when I hear a Congressman defending himself as “not a socialist” I hear that fear. I hear the fear of the bankers. I hear the fear of the mob.

I’m sure that conservatives and liberals alike want America to continue to be a great place to live, raise a family, or just be. But no one I know wants to be in debt all of their lives, and no one I know believes that it would be a good idea to place the fate of our entire economy into the hands of unelected bureaucrats working private banks. No one I know believes that capitalism is socialism for the rich.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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