Apr 16th 2010

George Orwell is Reborn as Mitch McConnell

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on amazon.com.

Sixty-one years ago, the novelist George Orwell published the novel "1984" - a social science fiction classic about a future totalitarian regime that had perfected the art of propaganda and mind control.

The book contributed several iconic terms to the political lexicon - "Big Brother," "thoughtcrime" - and perhaps most profoundly prescient - the concept of "doublethink." "Doublethink" is the act of simultaneously accepting as correct two mutually contradictory beliefs. The concept was later refined as "doublespeak" - which is simply the notion that if you say something often enough, you can convince normal people that something is its opposite.
The concepts are clearly on display in this well known excerpt from 1984:
"From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH."

The modern Republican Party has worked hard over the last decade to perfect the arts of "doublethink" and "doublespeak." Karl Rove and George Bush were masters of the craft. They called their plan to reduce restrictions on polluters the "Clear Skies Initiative." When they eliminated Clinton-era rules conserving forests they called their program the "Healthy Forests Initiative." And, of course, they argued that their program of warrantless wiretaps enhanced our "freedom."

Now Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has carried Orwellian "doublespeak" to new heights of sheer chutzpa. Tuesday McConnell took to the Senate floor to charge that President Obama's proposal to hold the Wall Street Banks accountable actually "institutionalizes" bailouts of Wall Street.

Of course, McConnell forgot to mention in his floor speech that he and the chief of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Senator John Cornyn, had just returned from a trip to New York, where they had private meetings with top Wall Street executives to enlist their help in funding Republican campaigns this fall in exchange for killing tough financial reform.

And the big Wall Street banks have plenty of reasons to oppose reform. J.P. Morgan Chase just published its new earning figures for the quarter -- $3.3 billion - up almost 300% from last year. The firm spent a record $6.2 million on its attempts to lobby Congress last year, and you've got to admit - that the money spent on that army of lobbyists got a pretty good return on investment.
And it's not limited to a well known names. David Tepper CEO of Appalossoa Management - a hedge fund - made $4 billion last year - personally. Four billion dollars is enough money to pay about 80,000 teachers.

Wall Street has every intention of trying to buy off enough Members of Congress to allow them to continue precisely the reckless behavior that sunk the economy eighteen months ago - and cost seven million Americans their jobs - all the while making a lot of executives and traders very, very rich.

You've got to give it to McConnell. He has gall to march straight from a New York meeting where he got instructions from Wall Street, and go to the floor of the Senate where he attempted to convince Americans that a bill to hold the big Wall Street Banks accountable, is really a "bank bailout bill."

This cynical tactic is taken directly from the pages of the now-famous memo penned by Republican pollster Frank Luntz who found that it was the only argument that has any traction with swing voters - or even the Republican rank and file. The fact is that there is a huge fissure in the Republican Party between the Wall Street elite that has always been the core Republican constituency - and the rank and file party membership that is almost as suspicious of Wall Street as it is of "big government."

The Party's ability to successfully sell this Orwellian notion is their only hope of taking political high ground in the upcoming debate over holding Wall Street accountable. But selling the notion that this is a "big bank bailout bill" is a much more difficult lift than convincing seniors that the health bill included "death panels." The "death panel" fantasy had traction because it built on the underlying foundation of hatred for "big government" in the Republican base and among some independents.

But as soon as people learn that the Republican leadership actually represents the big banks - and takes huge sums of money from the big banks - their argument that they oppose the bill because it is a "bank bailout" falls flat.

You can say anything you want. But to be persuasive it has to have at least an ounce of credulity. Not even the most ardent right wing zealot could believe that the big banks would back the Republicans so they will oppose a "big bank bailout". No, the big banks are backing Republicans because they don't want to be held accountable. Their CEO's want to be free to continue their reckless speculation, so they can take home their ten or twenty or fifty million dollar bonus checks regardless of the impact it has on the economy or the jobs of Americans.
For instance, the bill's requirement that "derivatives" be traded on transparent public exchanges instead of privately by a few big banks, will cost the biggest Wall Street banks $20 to $40 billion a year. But it will also help prevent the reckless speculation in these instruments - which are really nothing more than bets that the price of stock or commodity will go up or down. Speculation in "derivatives" was a big factor that caused the financial collapse in the fall of 2008. But the big banks don't care. They just want to keep on stuffing huge sums of money into their pockets.

In many respects their attempt to sell the "this bill is a bank bailout" fantasy is a mark of Republican political desperation over this issue. It is up to Democrats to make the distinctions crystal clear. Democrats should refuse to compromise with Wall Street-Republicans or water down the bill one iota. We will get the Republican votes for the final bill to hold Wall Street accountable, not because we have compromised and incorporated "Republican" (Wall Street) ideas - but because they are compelled by political reality to vote yes on the bill.

To win, we have to squeeze the Republicans - to expose the fact that they are fronting entirely for the big Wall Street Banks. Forcing the Republicans into a corner - not compromise - is the road to success. It is the road to success both from the standpoint of enacting a policy that reins in the Wall Street banks and holds them accountable - and from the standpoint of electoral politics. It is the only path to assuring that the recklessness of Wall Street doesn't result in another economic catastrophe that costs millions more Americans their jobs.

Robert Creamer's recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "