Crumbs: American Affairs, Sociopaths and Student Loans


A few things I’ve found interesting recently:

I off-and-on think about how much “the left” needs a new journal of ideas. The Nation certainly isn’t it. Same goes for The New Republic. It was killed a couple of years ago by the tech bros. While we defend the free media that exists to report facts, it is clearly necessary for someone to start a publication devoted to new voices and new ideas. The left lacks that — and, as it long has, it lacks institutions to research, formulate, promote and mentor others in public policy and advocacy. Not everyone is a member of a union or driven by a presidential personality to join a campaign. We need a journal for experts and naives to discuss and build the future of liberalism. The Democratic Party certainly isn’t going to do it.

Maybe I’ll start one.

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The Trumpists have started a new journal, American Affairs, to put a policy around President Trump’s tweets. (The attempt reminds me of Eddie Izzard’s joke about the Church of England in Dressed to Kill.) I’ve considered subscribing, if only to try to better understand the economic nationalism promoted by Trump and his circle of advisors.

A taste from their mission statement,

At home, we have heard endless calls for new New Deals and another Reagan Revolution. Yet, today, Americans spend more on education, and our students perform worse. We spend more on health care and receive less. We spend more per unit of infrastructure and build less. We spend more on defense and get the F-35 debacle. We have lower taxes but slower economic growth. We have more finance but less investment.

Concerning foreign affairs, speeches about our obligations to “promote democracy” and our “responsibility to protect” trade places with predictable regularity. Yet what have we accomplished except the promotion of chaos and the irresponsible squandering of hard-won strategic advantages?

Among the commentators tasked with appraising our situation, it has become fashionable to criticize the “nostalgia” of voters seeking better government and better livelihoods. These desires, we are told, are nothing but impossible and counterproductive illusions. Like all clichés, this one contains some truth. But our intellectuals as well as our politicians are subservient to an even more debilitating nostalgia, which views the ideologies of the last few decades as the only alternatives and their policies as the only solutions. They are nostalgic for a present they think they inhabit, but which has already slipped away.

These ossified intellectual orthodoxies have rewarded partisan loyalty over genuine insight. The resulting political culture has promoted a peculiar hybrid of extremism and careerism at the expense of good governance.

I do have to laugh at this line from the editor’s mission statement:

What if “the real problem with our republic,” as Walter Russell Mead put it, “is that what should be our leadership elite is soul-sick: vain, restless, easily miffed, intellectually confused, jealous”?

Are those adjectives not perfectly apt in describing Donald Trump?

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Read this interview with longtime union organizer Marshall Ganz on moving past protesting to organizing. At bottom, he says we need to explain to voters how neoliberalism has caused the economic inequality we are all experiencing. That inequality is compounded when the victims turn to racial and gender attacks to explain and respond to (and, for the elites, cover up) it. He says,

It is critical to find ways to show that racial and gender and economic inequality are deeply interconnected, and that you really cannot deal with one successfully without dealing with the others. We dealt with economics until the 1960s and 1970s and then we shifted more to race and gender. So the message here is that you got to get it all together. It is about power. If you say, okay, I’m going to fight racial disempowerment but I am going to ignore economics, you are also ignoring the disempowerment of huge portions of the black community.

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Another guy, Bruce Cannon Gibney, writes in The Boston Globe that Boomers are sociopaths and that’s why they furthered the turn to neoliberal policies (he doesn’t identify neoliberalism because he’s too focused on his ill-considered sociopathy idea) — privatized social services, socialized profits. Sadly, in his successful effort to snag a book deal, he didn’t take an opportunity to do any reading (too busy making those profits) in history or politics or economics. Note also, courtesy my friend and intrepid reporter R.G. Ratcliffe, that the author is a venture capitalist who worked with Trump’s tech lover Peter Thiel. Not certain he can be considered a member of his audience.

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I just stumbled upon this column from years ago. It’s still good. It expresses my feelings about filing bankruptcy to get out of having my wages garnished by student loan companies.

Am I a deadbeat? In the eyes of the law I am. Indifferent to the claim that repaying student loans is the road to character? Yes. Blind to the reality of countless numbers of people struggling to repay their debts, no matter their circumstances, many worse than mine? My heart goes out to them. To my mind, they have learned to live with a social arrangement that is legal, but not moral.

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Oh, a follow-up on San Antonio mayoral candidate Manuel Medina:

[T]he budding bromance between mayoral contender Manuel Medina and former Councilman Carlton Soules definitely qualifies as a surprise.

Soules is a Republican, a budget hawk who served from 2011-13 as the council’s resident Doctor No on big spending projects and utility rate hikes. Medina is a Democrat, a gregarious progressive who serves as chairman of his party’s county organization.

Medina and Soules would appear to have little common ground, but they have forged a bipartisan political alliance, with Soules taking on the role of consultant for Medina’s campaign.

Seriously. If you’re going to be a partisan, at least be consistent.


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