Maximum Wage in a Time of Crisis

I have previously made the case that Calvinist inspired Capitalism is a sort of national religion of the US, and that inequality is its highest sacrament. So, I was offended but not surprised by Pelosi's applause for Trump's red-baiting line declaring that the US would never be a socialist country. Her applause reflects her shared faith in Capitalism's creed of greed. But progressives need to straighten our spines and reject such rhetoric as offensive and poisonous to public dialog. We must reject the cultish celebration of Capitalism, an idolatry of accumulation that has excused all sort of atrocity and driven humanity to the precipice of extinction.   I agree with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez's ("AOC") assessment that Trump's comment reflects a fear that the worship of unlimited accumulation is losing purchase power in the hearts of ordinary working people in the US (and elsewhere). The billionaires have cause to be scared. The 2016 and 2018 elections affirmed that democratic socialism is finally on the ascent because it has become abundantly clear that limitless accumulation of wealth and power is not only corrosive to democracy, it is actually allowing humanity to madly careen toward the cliff of extinction.   As far as I am concerned, democratic socialism is simply a call for decency, dignity, and a path toward survival. It is an insistence on a renewal of what the Nordic countries refer to as the "basic agreement". As described in George Lakey's excellent book Viking Economics, labor movements in the Nordic Countries and in the US delivered victories 100 years ago to establish that wealth and private ownership is allowed to the extent that it benefits, rather than detracts from the general welfare of society.   In other words, the wealthy exist at the pleasure of the people - the people DO NOT exist simply to serve the rich and powerful.  Unlimited wealth must be checked due to its inherently corrupting and corrosive impacts on a free society.  While the Nordic countries held onto their basic agreement, the last 35 years in the US have been marked by not merely an erosion of progressive victories, but in many ways an inversion. The stabilizing redistribution of wealth through fair progressive taxation has been inverted to distribute wealth and power from the people and the commons to the wealthy. Continue reading

Understand the OODA Loop to Battle Trumpism

  [In a discussion on a listserve - the question was posed: "What are we for?" and I posted the below to describe Backbone Campaign and my personal strategy for facing the otherwise daunting prospects of a Trump administration.  I hope the OODA loop concept is of use to you.  I was introduced to this and other grand strategy work of Col. John R. Boyd by my strategy mentor Chuck Spinney.  I am forever in his debt.] Continue reading

Repeal & Replace with Medicare for All!

WARNING: There is a  VERY BAD strategy emerging among Democrat affiliated groups to lump defense of ACA (Obamacare) with preserving Medicare and Medicaid.  This is the EXACTLY WRONG approach - and just proves that those behind this strategy are totally out of touch with normal people - people who have a very strong BS meter.  This emergency "strategy" is a "Let's go swimming with concrete boots" strategy.  No self-respecting person has the time or energy for more losing.  We have a moral obligation to deliver victories.  So, do not drink this KoolAid. The Washington Post survey from last May needs to be utilized by all of right now.  See the graph here and the article here.  The ACA it is NOTHING like Medicare or Medicaid. The ACA is going to crash and burn because it is a public subsidy for private health insurance companies, is inefficient.    ACA - is going down not because of Trump or the Republicans.  The ACA is going to crash and burn because it is too complicated - creates far too much friction - doesn't reduce costs, and was always the wrong direction to go. The ACA was doomed from the start.  It was a failure of liberals to stand with progressives and fight hard for the common sense, simple solution the American people deserved.   Continue reading


In 2008, the Backbone Campaign and a coalition of allies responded to the proposed "Paulson Plan" with a plan of our own.  The online and on the streets campaign generated over 35,000 emails to Congress.  Conservatives and progressives were united against bailing out the "Too big to fail" banks.  We argued that anything "Too big to fail" was actually TOO BIG TO EXIST.  Though political science is considered part of the liberal arts, I am ever more convinced that principles of physics and biology are as much at play in society as in the physical sciences.  Obama's response to the financial crisis, even before his inauguration signalled that he would never be a strong enough progressive champion to challenge the oligarchy.  His failure to lead with backbone and stand up to Wall Street at that key moment ceded moral territory and created a vacuum.   Nature abhors a vacuum. For this reason alone, it is more than fair to attribute considerable blame upon Obama for emergence and ascendance of the populist right, i.e. the Tea Party and its logical manifestations in Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Obama's failure to take the mantle of modern populism at a time when it was desperately needed, when the winds of change were heralding its inevitability was cowardly and shortsighted.  It was also a tragic betrayal of the "Change We Can Believe In" rhetoric of his campaign.  Millions of Americans had invested their aspirations in his administration and they were cynically abandoned.   But just as the Tea Party emerged with its populism of xenophobia, fear, and racism - Occupy offered a more positive populism. Despite disappearing from the front pages, Occupy did not disappear, but rather melted into multiple democracy, environmental and economic justice movements.  Those movements are gaining ground with victories and taking territory in the hearts and minds of Americans.  Today progressives see a new wave of possibility, a way to channel their energies into a political revolution. That revolution needs a program.  In 2004 the Backbone Campaign and allies created a Progressive Cabinet Roster.  In 2005 through 2012, Backbone produced 87 podcasts called Conversations with the Cabinet.   The theme of those participatory interviews was that we have the leaders and ideas to run the country.  A rainbow of progressive visionaries, movement leaders and policy experts repeatedly articulated not only what we oppose, but more importantly what we propose. 

Dislodging the Deep State - Reflections on the tug-of-war between negative and positive populism

Mike Lofgren's essay in The Guardian 1-17-2016 and his writings on the Deep State are a "must read" for those who aspire to help build a just and sustainable society with an actual democracy. I highly recommend his book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government.  Below are my reflections and his recent essay. Disdain for the status quo in the US is nearly universal - AND - given the complexity and chaos of our times, change is inevitable.  But who will define what "change" looks like?  This dissatisfaction and inevitability represent our greatest opportunity and greatest challenge of our time.  We must dislodge this Deep State and channel the energy of inevitable change toward a just and sustainable society.  But our opponents are consolidating their power through treaties such as the TPP, institutionalizing their rule with the Deep State Mike Lofgren describes, and feeding a violent faux-populist arm of racists thugs to draw energy away from a populism that could actually deliver a future worth living for. Continue reading