Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Parties and Misc.

Happy New Year everyone!

Today is a day of rest for most of us (some of you have to work and are not required to be paid overtime) and all I've done today is watch the new Star Wars movie (I liked it a lot) and watched football (why are the Giants playing their starters?  Well, they won...).  As such my "insightful commentary" is drastically curtailed.

That said, I made the time today to read this very good Jacobin article on building a new, labor-oriented party in the USA.  It's worth your time to read in its entirety, but I'll try to sum up a few of the key points:
  • The USA erects massive barriers to new political parties, in contrast to other Western, first world countries.  On a state-by-state level, the scales are decisively tipped by law in favor of the Republican and Democratic parties, which do not face onerous restrictions. 
  • Because of these restrictions, so much time is spent by third parties simply fighting lawsuits and attempting to gain ballot access that it ends up making sense for third parties such as the Greens and Libertarians to simply run dilettante-ish, "we're making a statement"-style campaigns which are less concerned with winning elections than with pointing out how screwed up the electoral system is.
  • Leftists running within the Democratic party are perhaps not the answer for modern progressives.  Best that I quote the article directly here (just read the bold parts if you're lazy!):
“Working within the Democratic Party” has been the prevailing model of progressive political action for decades now, and it suffers from a fundamental limitation: it cedes all real agency to professional politicians. The liberal office-seeker becomes the indispensable actor to whom all others, including progressives, must respond.


Orbiting around these ambitious office-seekers are the progressive “grassroots” organizations exemplified by, Democracy for America, or Progressive Democrats of America. (In an earlier, direct-mail era, it was Common Cause, People for the American Way, or even the Americans for Democratic Action.)

Run by salaried staffers, these groups monitor the political scene in search of worthy progressive candidates or legislative causes, alerting their supporters with bulletins urging them to “stand with” whichever progressive politico needs support at the moment. (Support, in this usage, usually means sending money, or signing an email petition.) Such groups generally maintain no formal standards for judging a candidate’s worthiness. Even if they did, in drawing up such standards they would be accountable to no one, and would have no power to change those candidates’ policy objectives.

Although it’s too early to tell, Bernie Sanders’s recently created Our Revolution organization seems in danger of falling into the same trap: becoming a mere middleman, or broker, standing between a diffuse, unorganized progressive constituency and a series of ambitious progressive office-seekers seeking their backing.

In this “party-less” model of politics, it’s the Democratic politician who goes about trying to recruit a base, rather than the other way around. The politician’s platform and message are devised by her and her alone. They can be changed on a whim. And there is no mechanism by which the politician can be held accountable to the (fairly nebulous) progressive constituency she has recruited to her cause.
  • The author (Seth Ackerman) goes on to discuss a hypothetical party which could be incorporated as a 501(c)4 social welfare organization and enjoy considerable fundraising success under Citizens United using a variation on the Bernie Sanders small donations model.
It's worth your time to read if you have 15-30 minutes to kill are interested in the subject.

If that's too much commitment for you, here's two paragraphs of Dean Baker shitting on PE (Private Equity).  Next time someone tells you the world of Private Equity is staffed by superwizards, bear in mind they may be describing not actual geniuses, but inventive con men.  Hmmm!

To close out our first day of 2017, here's a little run down on the Obama-era regulations the GOP is hoping to abolish under Donald Trump.  Obviously, I'll be doing my best to cover this topic in detail as events unfold.  For now I'll leave you with the words of House speaker Paul Ryan:

“I hear probably more about the strangulation of regulations on business and their growth and their development than probably anything else,” the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, said at a recent forum. “I think if we can provide regulatory relief right away, that can breathe a sigh of relief into the economy.”

Here's the ranking of ease of doing business in the United States conducted by the World Bank.

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