CHANGE THE SUBJECT

By J.D. ALT

So, I will now, once again, court blushing naivete….

In the middle of a contemplative walk—during which, I confess, I was imagining with enthusiasm how the Democrats might extract revenge should they win the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections (hearings and subpoenas relating to the FBI “investigation” of Brett Kavanaugh, subpoenas for Donald Trump’s tax returns, drawing up articles of impeachment, etc.)—I was suddenly struck by the realization of what a terrible mistake it would be to do any of that.

Hard as it might be to bite their collective tongues, what the Democrats ought to do if they take the House this November is to dramatically and forcefully CHANGE THE SUBJECT. Strategically, leading up to the 2020 elections, this would be, by far, the most intelligent and effective course to take. Should the Democrats continue throwing gasoline and flaming matches on the emotional blood-feud which has come to dominate our politics and news cycles, they will be playing directly into the game-plan Donald Trump has imposed on the Republican party—and American politics in general.

Donald Trump doesn’t want anyone to be talking rationally about the real issues and needs the great majority of Americans are actually confronting in their daily lives. He wants the conversation to be a demagoguery shouting match—not about important public policies, but about conspiracies against his administration, his allies, his followers. He doesn’t want people to seek solutions, he wants them to seek enemies. He wants Evangelical Christians to hate pro-choice Americans. He wants American workers to hate Latinos and immigrants. He wants men to hate female sexual assault victims. He wants everyone to hate journalists and reporters.

If the Democrats play into this vindictive narrative after the midterm elections, they could lose a sure-fire opportunity to retake control of the entire federal government in 2020. To say it again: don’t do it! Instead, if they take control of the House of Representatives, Democrats should CHANGE THE SUBJECT. And they should do it in a way that forces the media to change the subject as well.

Here are some thoughts about how that might be done:

  1. The Democrat led House should write, debate, and vote on a series of bills that deal directly with the biggest and most difficult issues American families are now actually struggling with:
    • Full, free, universal health-care— (not catastrophic health-care “insurance”)
    • Free post-high school education or training for every student who qualifies
    • Immediate forgiveness of all student loan debt
    • Free, universal pre-school education and day-care
    • A “living-wage” minimum wage for all workers who do not receive tips
    • A national affordable housing CO-OP system
    • A Job Guarantee (doing community service) for anyone willing to work
  1. The Democrat led House should hold hearings to ascertain the threats and challenges that will be imposed on American citizens, property, infrastructure, and food and water resources by anticipated global climate-change.
  1. Once the scale of the climate-change challenge is understood, the Democrat led House should hold hearings to establish an understanding of how the modern U.S. fiat-monetary system actually works today, and how it can be more effectively visualized and managed to undertake what needs to be accomplished.

If this strategy were employed by a Democrat-led House of Representatives, it would not matter if any bill they debated and passed was ever taken up by a Republican controlled Senate—or signed by Donald Trump. It wouldn’t matter if any of their hearings resulted in meaningful policy proposals. What would matter is, first, the topics of conversation in the American political dialog would change from what Trump-Republicans want to talk about to what progressive-Democrats want to talk about. Second, the seeds of the real issues facing America—and the real possibilities and opportunities for addressing them—would be planted in the thinking processes of American voters.

Third, the referendum “subjects” of the 2020 elections would be established—and it would not be what the Trump-Republicans will want to be campaigning about. The wind might well be taken out of the sails of the hate-campaign juggernaut. Some percentage of the “Trump base” might rediscover they are also middle, or lower-middle-class Americans facing real, practical challenges in their lives—challenges which the Democrats are actually talking about and proposing to fix.

If 2020 can be framed around a powerful and compelling progressive platform—based on a growing awareness of the possibilities of modern fiat-money—it seems likely the Democrats could take the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. Then, under those circumstances, and with that growing awareness, at long last, they could lead the country out of the wasteland of fiscal austerity and global corporate power.

The real “populists,” it might ultimately be discovered to our national and personal benefits, are not the Trump-Base Republicans. The real “populists” are creative progressives, operating in local communities around the country—and supported by the rational understanding and management of a national fiat-monetary system.

23 Responses to CHANGE THE SUBJECT

  1. Graham Paterson

    That is some of the most rational and commonsense suggestions I have read for the future direction of US politics. If your suggestions are taken up, J D, there will be a lot of very grateful people wanting to thank you.

  2. Thumbs up on all of that!

  3. Excellent suggestions. When I am thinking rationally, I have repeatedly told anyone in the Democratic Party that will listen, “You can’t beat something with nothing. You can’t win by what you are against. You must establish a vision of what you are for.”

    Yes, we are both naive to think that the Democrats will listen or that they really want to win back power with a progressive platform. They really just want to win back power to better serve their corporate paymasters.

    • So true. Too many candidates seem to ignore a real vision that would make them different than their opponents and as a consequence they underperform and lose.

  4. James Cooley

    I agree somewhat with your logic, but I think Progressives can walk and chew gum at the same time. They just need to be selective about the gum they choose. I think opening an investigastion into tRump’s taxes and Republican financial shenanigans and payoffs from Russian oligarks, based on whatever information Meuller’s team releases, woud help set the stage for a house cleaning of mega proportions in 2020.

  5. But will the Democrats’ funders permit such a travesty? I think not.
    “Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.” – Lucy Parsons: Freedom, Equality & Solidarity – Writings & Speeches, 1878-1937

  6. Max Mastellone

    The Democratic Party has no interest in embracing progressive policies, supporting progressive candidates, or in leading the country out of the wasteland. They are fully committed, with their duopoly partners, the Republicans, to neoliberalism and their oligarch patrons. Any real progressives that manage to win on the Democratic ticket are quickly co-opted, neutralized or otherwise marginalized.
    Unfortunately, we will have to find other ways to get to your admirable goal.

  7. Thanks, J.D. I’ve been struggling to articulate why arguing with Trump or his supporters plays along with their program, but this is the best expression I’ve seen yet of what needs to happen.

  8. Of course!!

    Forewarning:
    The POP “intelligence” (prevailing order protection) will manipulate consensus.
    Suddenly, it’s amplify and mislead. Our contemplative walker leans communist or a chilling enthusiastic harbinger of profit impinging socialism. Our magnanimous visionary finds along his path a PA of predatory wolves with nothing more than contempt for well intended change.
    The only likely biting Dem leadership would be a party to wouldn’t be their own tongues but more gnawing into the already withering livelihood of ordinary workers and their families.
    …when they both stop lying to us, we’ll stop telling the truth about them.

    • Greensachs, you assume I contemplate (and advocate) “communism” or “socialism,” but I do not. I like neither one. Each assumes a central government that decides how resources for public goods are to be marshaled and allocated. I do not like central governments that propose to make such decisions—and, in so proposing, find it necessary to create the bureaucracies necessary to manage and implement those decisions. What I contemplate, instead, is that decisions how to marshal and allocate resources are made at the level of local communities—while the dollars necessary to pay for the marshaling are created by the central government (which is the only place they can be created). You are right about the wolves though.

      • There are things only the national government can do. A read of The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis discusses a number of them and how Trump is trying to render them ineffective because he doesn’t understand how they function. Two examples: the Dept of Commerce which is mostly not about commerce; the National Weather Service, which can deal with more than the weather. The third chapter entitled All the President’s Data is especially instructive.

  9. Consider adding these to your list of subject changers:

    1. A mass transit system that would move people and goods at high speeds across the continental U. S.
    2. Upgrade our physical infrastructure grade from D- to at least B+
    3. Support the arts with grants to symphony orchestras and museums.

    • My two favorites to add to the list is immigration reform and elimination of or greatly restructured ICE and prison reform to eliminate private prisons and to allow prisoners and those released the right to vote.

  10. William Beyer

    Great approach, but Nancy Pelosi has recently been quoted as saying if the Dems take back the House, she will re-institute “pay-go.” Step 1 should be to remove her from the leadership.

    • madame defarge

      I agree about removing her from the leadership. Also that Manchin who voted for Kavanaugh should be ejected from the party. Bernie is more democrat than Manchin ever will be…

      Remember IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS, IGNORANCE IS VULNERABILITY.

  11. Great idea here. Let’s make it so.

  12. John Zelnicker

    J. D. – In advocating a “living wage” minimum wage, why do you exclude those working for tips?

  13. Like the idea but your framing is terrible. I hate the word “free”. Unless the health care professionals are going to work for no pay or the teachers are going to work for no pay there is no such thing as “free”.
    Instead, I would say a single payer system for health care is much more cost efficient than enriching the insurance industry to pay for health care. And paying for education through the government is more cost effective than enriching the banking industry (from student loans) to obtain a highly educated work force that benefits all citizens of this country.

    • madame defarge

      Excellent point about the framing. Everybody knows those things are not free…. Question is HOW CAN WE AFFORD to keep paying 24K prices for lead….

  14. madame defarge

    Great article and great comments. Gotta love NEP

  15. The state of media in this country is corporate. The corporate media ARE the state media. Messaging is all. Getting JD’s (entirely appropriate) message to the entire populace will require pretty close to full cooperation of the corporate media, who have plenty of reasons not to cooperate.
    How do we fix that?

  16. Justice and revenge are two very different quantities.
    In a blog that covers financial fraud, I would have expected more of an emphasis on enforceable property rights. In 2016, millions of dollars of data were stolen from the DNC and tens of millions were stolen from Facebook – by former British spies at Cambridge Analytica, no less (illustrating another danger in privatizing the modern national security state).
    This stolen data was then used to target various voting blocks with propaganda to change their voting habits, in essence stealing the election. (And don’t tell me it had no effect; people don’t break laws on this scale and spend these sums of money lying if it doesn’t work.)
    Trump himself stupidly admitted exactly this had happened in a Freudian slip shortly afterwards when he claimed that the election he won was rigged by massive foreign intervention. He says Mexicans while reality says Russians – but why quibble? He’s illegitimate either way.
    These crimes go far beyond the scope of Watergate. If the individuals responsible for these criminal activities aren’t punished, then one of two things will happen. Democrats will realize that laws against trespass and theft are no longer enforced and they will break into whatever party headquarters or donor properties they need to for their own partisan advantage, leading to a rapid decline in the rule of law.
    If Democrats fail to respond to the crimes committed against them with their own crimes then their electoral losses will pile up until they are replaced by a party willing to do what it takes in the new environment to seize power.
    I believe William Black refers to this phenomenon as an escalator to the basement or a race to the bottom. This dynamic is what has Mexican and South African kleptocrats murdering each other today.
    This is, in fact, the end goal of the Koch brothers. The restoration of their plantation economy will be a perfect free market of bribery where offices are auctioned off to the highest bidder. With the rich deciding who gets property rights and who doesn’t, we will live in a fragmented, violent, ungovernable conglomeration of criminal enterprises similar to what you see in Mexico’s cartel economy today.
    The opposite of a psychopath isn’t another psychopath with a different agenda; it’s someone with a conscience.
    Without a restoration of the rule of law at the very highest levels of elite behavior, none of your progressive policies are possible. Degrading the rule of law is at the very heart of what the Republicans hope to accomplish because it makes self-government and democracy impossible. They just figure the super-rich will be wealthy enough to pay for their own private security while we’re wrestling each other for the last can of dog food in the zombie bank apocalypse.
    They’re wrong, of course, but that’s their endgame.
    The era of civil rights didn’t achieve lasting success until people with guns – the National Guard – showed up to confront the segregationists. We prosecuted lynchings. We prevented the Klan from buying radio and TV stations.
    Similarly, voting rights won’t be restored in America today until outfits like the Crosscheck operation face a criminal civil rights prosecution. The rule of law won’t be restored until lawyers who argue that birth control pills and I.U.D.’s are abortifacients are disbarred for lying about basic science. Until price-fixing drug cartels are prosecuted for engineering the epic drug shortages that have been killing patients under the radar for almost a decade now.
    There is no democracy without the rule of law and there is no rule of law without equality before it and universal accountability. Allowing half-a-billion dollar tax frauds and conspiracies with money launderering oligarchs to go unprosecuted destroys the very system you need to achieve your policy goals. Indeed, global warming is itself caused by destruction of property rights. Air pollution kills 6-7 million people a year with disease by polluting our common public property, the air we breathe. If that’s not deprivation of property rights, I don’t know what is.
    Donald Trump was raised on spectacle. Whenever he gets in trouble, he resorts to more spectacle for distraction – except spectacle is often produced by unpredictable behavior and, in a law-abiding environment, such drama is often best produced by law-breaking and transgression. What works for him politically then is the opposite of what he needs to do legally. To survive a prosecution, he needs to be as boring as possible. But that’s in contradiciton to his political survival instincts.
    More to the point, to have a lasting effect on governance in this country and advance his agenda, he needs the rule of law. But if Trump isn’t following the law, why should anyone else? Why should anyone anywhere in government do what he says if the law no longer applies? Why should behavior not capriciously change back once he’s gone?
    Donald Trump is the ultimate decontructionist of modern American politics, sitting out on a limb that he’s sawing off. [And, in that regard, it’s not a surprise that he’s elevated the inchoate scream of white identity confessional above universal principles of citizenship. He’s followed charismatic pseudochristians and postmodernist identity fetishists over the cliff of pluralism.]
    This is also what really cooks this congress: Why would anybody bother bribing a congressman to write laws that nobody will follow in the first place? You can’t sell laws to the highest bidder if they’re worthless in the first place.
    This is the ultimate problem with kleptocracies. Once you’ve stolen the money, how do you protect it from your fellow kleptocrats?
    It depends on creating a two-tiered system of inequality. Except nothing about modern democracy can rationally sustain this class apartheid arrangement.
    Ignoring the problem *is* the problem and will only lead to further degeneration.
    We won’t triumph until the boring people are back in charge. Maybe the drama of that restoration redounds to Donald Trump and his evangelical vernacular in the short term but in the long run nobody wants to open that envelope with their social security check or pension statement and feel any sense of drama at all. There’s a lot to be said for boring and predictable when it comes to turning on the tap water or flipping a light switch.
    Don’t underestimate how many voters would love to hear about how the elites in Washington will have to follow the same laws as the rest of us. These are all different sides of the same message. It’s what dealing with inequality ultimately requires.

  17. Aye J.D., I have enjoyed your understanding and creativity regarding modern money for years (even supporting your work). The “wolf” was intended to be written as wolf PAC (political action committee), whose sole role is to throw sand into the electorate’s eyes.
    Anything that moves our fiat to small d democratic delivery, is assured to be met with all sorts of “ism” mongering. The extractive established order uses our air waves (and their teeming pockets) to dismiss and/or marginalize any zephyr that whispers change. I don’t want to be wide-eyed about how easily distracted and disengaged (compliant) the citizenry is made to be.
    “We” cannot even get across that federal revenue does not fuel expenditures.
    Where within the vibrant media dialogue might I find that stream of information and understanding?
    Maybe it is too truthful to be a party to the current left/right stagecraft.