Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Who Got the Power? Warren, Cruz, Boehner v. the 1%

Who Got the Power? Warren, Cruz, and Boehner v. the 1%
P. Schultz
January 7, 2015

            Below are links to two articles on what appear to be diverse topics. One is entitled, “The GOP’s Grand Con Job: Why Its Cynically Scheming to Dupe the 1%.” And the other is entitled, “Elizabeth Warren’s Surprising Compliment: Why Comparisons to Ted Cruz are Good.” But although they seem to be devoted to different issues, they address the same issue: Who got the power, politicians or the 1%?

            Now, of course, it would be foolhardy to make this an either/or choice, but it is not foolhardy to wonder if the conventional wisdom that it is the politicians who are in the service of those with the money is as accurate as it claims to be.

            In the article on Warren and Cruz, the author argues that such a comparison, made after Warren “named names” in the Senate when she said “Responding Citigroup’s complaints about financial reform, “let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citi [group]. I agree with you Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces!” As Parton says in her article:

 “That’s unusual. The millionaires club also known as the Senate is an unlikely place to hear anyone call out a major banking institution by name and declare that it should be broken into pieces, especially one that one they allowed to write legislation to loosen regulations. One simply doesn’t air the Senate’s dirty laundry that way.”

            And so, Warren aroused the ire of some pundits, who was labeled “the Ted Cruz of the left.” Parton’s argument was two fold: First, this is just an insane comparison, as evidenced by Cruz’s comparison of those who refuse to overturn Obamacare to those who supported or acquiesced in Hitler’s rule. But, second, she points out that this comparison is “good” because it underlines that Warren, like Cruz, has power and she has power because she “derives [her] power [not] from cozy relationships with big business but from [her] cozy relationship to average people.” And as Parton notes, this is ‘a grave threat to the system they’ve [the establishment] spent so much money to create for themselves.”

            This illustrates something that is too often overlooked, viz., that for those with money to be able to control politicians, it is required that politicians go along with the ruse that they are in the thrall of those with money. And for this arrangement to become “a system” requires that it be accepted by almost all politicians and not spoken of because otherwise, when politicians appeal to the people and openly point out the collusion between the moneyed and the powerful, that collusion is almost bound to fail. Warren and Cruz both illustrate this.

            And then when you read the piece by Elias Isquith’s on Boehner, you learn that despite reports that “Boehner claim that he’d like to use his new power to strike a deal with President Obama to cut social insurance spending and raise taxes,” this is not really what is going on. What is actually going on, according to Isquith, is that Boehner and his allies are holding out the promise of such “a grand bargain” in order to keep the 1% in their camp so they, the 1%, will fund the Republicans’ attempt to win the White House in 2016. As Isquith puts it:

“Boehner and company are fully aware that the chances of them doing “big things” between now and January of 2017 are slim-to-none. At the same time, they know that they’ll only be able to enact major policy changes if a Republican wins the next White House race and if the GOP maintains control over both the House and the Senate. And, crucially, they know that they won’t be able to do any of those things unless they continue to benefit from the 1 percent’s unprecedented political largesse. So what other option does that leave them than to humor the business class’s desire for a grand bargain and immigration reform while keeping those fundraising pitches coming?”

            So, it is the 1% who are being manipulated or used by the politicians and not the other way round, according to Isquith.

            I would offer two emendations to Isquith’s argument. First, I would emphasize more than he does that Boehner and his allies are most concerned, not with winning the White House in 2016, but with protecting their own positions of power. So, by “failing” to strike “a grand bargain” and contending that such a bargain is just not doable now, they keep the insurgents in their own party in check while appearing to bow to their wishes.

            Second, I am less certain than Isquith is that the Republicans like Boehner want to win the White House “to enact major policy changes.” They are more concerned with preserving the status quo and, hence, their own power than they are with enacting major policy changes. To do that might feed the power of the insurgents like Cruz, thereby displacing the establishment types like Boehner and, as Parton pointed out in her piece on Warren, upsetting the well-established and profitable apple cart. And this is why I am not persuaded that these establishment Republicans worry all that much about not winning the White House in 2016. What better to preserve the status quo than to extend our “divided” government for another four years at least?

            Still, it interesting to find two pieces that illustrate the argument that it is the politicians that are powerful and not merely oligarchs like the Koch brothers. The latter need the help, the collusion of the former to maximize their power, and the former are able, because they control the processes of governing, to milk the latter for money while pretending to do their bidding. It is an interesting situation.

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