July 24, 2011

Jeffrey Sachs has become 'shrill'

I read the book The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (2006) by Jeffrey Sachs, a professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia, some time ago and much of it consisted of him jetting around the globe meeting with heads of state and helping them solve their economic problems. He put out the hopeful message that global poverty could be eradicated and as an establishment liberal working within the system, he was high profile and you would find articles by him and about him all over the place. Then a couple of years ago, he seemed to suddenly disappear from the op-ed pages of the major newspapers.

I think I now know why. Yesterday an opinion piece written by him appeared in the Huffington Post and reveals that he has come to the conclusion that the political system is inherently corrupt, with both parties serving the oligarchy (though he does not use that term) and guilty of swindling the public.

Here's a sample:

The Democrats of the White House and much of Congress have been less crude, but no less insidious, in their duplicity. Obama's campaign promise to "change Washington" looks like pure bait and switch. There has been no change, but rather more of the same: the Wall-Street-owned Democratic Party as we have come to know it. The idea that the Republicans are for the billionaires and the Democrats are for the common man is quaint but outdated. It's more accurate to say that the Republicans are for Big Oil while the Democrats are for Big Banks. That has been the case since the modern Democratic Party was re-created by Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin.

Thus, at every crucial opportunity, Obama has failed to stand up for the poor and middle class. He refused to tax the banks and hedge funds properly on their outlandish profits; he refused to limit in a serious way the bankers' mega-bonuses even when the bonuses were financed by taxpayer bailouts; and he even refused to stand up against extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich last December, though 60 percent of the electorate repeatedly and consistently demanded that the Bush tax cuts at the top should be ended. It's not hard to understand why. Obama and Democratic Party politicians rely on Wall Street and the super-rich for campaign contributions the same way that the Republicans rely on oil and coal. In America today, only the rich have political power.

Who runs America today? The rich and the multinational corporations. Who runs the White House? David Plouffe, whose job it is to make sure that ever word, every action of the president is calculated for electoral gain rather than the country's needs. Who runs the Congress, on both sides of the aisle? The lobbyists, who win in every negotiation. And who loses? The American people, who have said repeatedly that they want a budget that sharply cuts the military, ends the wars, raises taxes on the rich, protects the poor and the middle class, and invests in America's future not just in Obama's speeches but in fact.

That kind of view quickly gets you booted out of the mainstream media and government circles. Sachs now joins a growing number of former establishment intellectuals who are increasingly being described as 'shrill' because they express views outside that narrow slice of so-called respectable opinion that requires you to pretend as if the two parties represent widely divergent interests. They have seen through the charade of politics in the US and talk about where power really lies and that is simply not allowed.


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Wow, it's good to see someone of such high standing in the "Serious Person" universe tell the unvarnished truth about what we've become. If enough such people can come to their senses and find ways to make their voices heard, perhaps there will be hope after all.

Posted by Steve LaBonne on July 24, 2011 04:37 PM

The United States has never been run as dreamed or claimed by our politicians. Even The Founders realized that they were creating an ideal to strive for rather than a finished goal having been achieved by our separation from Great Britain.

The years from FDR through Carter, yes even including Nixon and Eisenhower, were a brief time in which our government actually worked to achieve a progressively idealized nation. (Okay, there were also Teddy R and Woodrow W.)

But for the most part, it has been a case of the Black Cats fighting the White Cats for the control of the mice. If only there were a country which had a New Democratic Party...

Posted by Mike Haubrich on July 24, 2011 06:09 PM