Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Prairie Populist Pushes Back.

     A few posts back I took a critical shot at Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland's populist campaign, mainly because the politically overdramatized theme that this country is an oligarchy doesn't really square with reality.  I mean, the notion that an "oligarchy," which by definition is a unified bloc of individuals and institutions whose common theme is self-perpetuation, doesn't exist in the United States.  My piece noted that rich and powerful elites in the U.S. are fragmented into numerous components and individuals, each with a unique agenda.  Fact is, they often fight each other, many of them pushing political policies that are as favorable to the common folk as they are to the elites. Take a look:  For every Sheldon Adelson there's a Warren Buffet, for every Koch Brother there's a George Soros.  I could go on.  This is why I find Weiland's campaign falling short. 
    As you can imagine, Weiland found my analysis falling short too.  Here's his reply, sent today.  It's titled "Big Money Is Real:"

You Constant Commoners out there in Rapid trade some of the most thoughtful ideas coming out of South Dakota these days.  It's a frequent treat for me to log on for some adult thinking after a day dueling with the kinds of hormonal thinkers who frequent the War College.
I must, though, take mild exception with your leader’s recent post, "The problem with populism, Rick Weiland style."

John's argument is that my battle with "big money" ignores the fact that "big money" is not a monolith.  That, of course, is technically correct.  Soros, Koch and Adelson all actually exist.  But John extrapolates from that obvious fact that my campaign for the Senate, "is really missing the boat." 

Sometime around our nations 200th birthday the hard right invented the welfare queen as a symbol for its belief that, after 35 years of New Deal policies, their nation had gone too far in seeking to accommodate and empower the poor.   They new full well that "the poor" were not some "monolithic, unified political juggernaut," bent on defrauding hard working rich people of their well earned rewards.    But their "Great Communicator" synthesized what they believed was the overall effect of two generations of attention to the needs of the poor and the lower middle class into a powerful symbolic "person."  That successful synthesis has changed American politics and public policy for two generations.

2014 is almost exactly as far removed from 1976 as 1976 was from 1929.  Today we are reaping the whirlwind of two generations of public policy attention myopically focused on the needs of the wealthy and the powerful for policies that allow them to unleash their talents and ambitions with full force in our economy.  Those talents and ambitions are in fact a formidable force for progress.  I do not in any way agree with those who believe you can confiscate their fruits and your economy will walk away unharmed.

But after two generations in which the ideas of the rich and powerful have routed those of the middle class, the result has been predictable.  What began as an unchaining of productive genius has congealed into protection of raw power and already earned big money.  What at first helped the inventor starting out in the little garage market his or her inventions, to the immense benefit of our economy and our public, now helps the inventors grandsons and granddaughters amass unheard of riches with ponzi schemes of negative value to the public, or simply send their billions offshore, while head start programs are shuttered because their billions go untaxed. 

Big money is an understandable public symbol for the kind of people, and the kind of thinking, that have dominated American public policy for the last two generations.   

Warren Buffet understands big monies total triumph in public argumentation perfectly when he says, "There's class warfare all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

I'm sure Mr. Buffet has met Mr. Soros, and knows full well of the wide range of opinions within the billionaires club.  But Mr. Buffet also understands the bottom line, and knows that the actual, factual distribution of wealth is the bottom line.  Because he studies statistics, and thus knows the real economic and political world perhaps more accurately than any other human being now alive, Warren Buffet can see that "big money" has seen it's share of our nation's wealth rocket up in lock step with its share of the money with which politicians get elected.  He understands the bottom line never lies, and that the bottom line today is that close to 100% of the increase in America's total wealth over the last 30 years has gone to the wealthiest and most powerful 1% of Americans, while the other 99% of us have gotten next to nothing.

Unless you can argue that the free market economy has changed so fundamentally over the last 30 years that this result is a fair reflection of open competition, a ridiculous assertion on the face of it, Mr. Buffet feels there is only one conclusion possible, the one he presented in his famous class war quote.

I agree with Warren Buffet.  I believe the bottom line proves that the "big money" big foot against which I am campaigning hard not only exists, but is the fundamentally incorrect and unfair set of policy assumptions which must be slain before we can hope to right our course. 

It is not true that the right to buy politicians is big monies free speech right.

It is not true that granting tax free status to offshore profits, and billionaires grand kids piggy banks, or bundling bad mortgages, helps spur productive economic growth.

The results of these untruths, propagated by our refusal to challenge the ascendant political myths of big money, are stunting our economy and defrauding our middle class. 

Like Seymour's plant in Little Shop of Horrors, their myths have been allowed to grow unchecked for far too long, and they must be pruned.

That is why I am campaigning against "big money." 

As Warren Buffet understands, the people and ideas that phrase synthesizes have gotten mightily greedy.  As Ronald Reagan would well understand, labeling them is absolutely necessary to be effective in the world of public communication.

The thinking of Buffet and Reagan, each a much wiser man than I, is the basis of my campaign against "big money."  It is a base with which I am quite comfortable.


  1. John Tsitrian, you are businessman... but probably not a big money guy. But I assume that you a agree that big money has more clout than small money and often than ideas. (Money talks, ideas don't... anyway, that's what me thinks). The problem is that not all money, big or small is distributed evenly. There is a tendency among the business monies (big and small) and among the senior monies (those who can retire in a fairly leisurely manner), to give their money to Republicans --- and because some many nuts are running around the Republican house, it seems that a good deal of money end up with the nuts. As you probably have guessed, moderates like yourself are not on the up and up with the GOP. In fact, "liberal" Republican like a Janklow would probably find himself an outsider (a South Dakota Rino, perhaps). It seems to me that the shift in the GOP is partly do to the demise of the former GOP local level gate-keeping class who kept the nut-cases at-bay. And more recently, the nutcases have been given a lift by some big money folks outside the Washington beltway. If money is "free-speech" and if money (and large amounts of big money) are going to the GOP fringe elements, this is a problem. Note: I don't consider the fringes of the party to be aligned intellectually with either the old style Rockefeller Republicans or the Buckley conservatives --- both are in historical dustbins. I am trying hard to be upbeat here. Stephen

  2. I just hope that if Mr Weiland is successful in his attempt to win the US Senate seat, he will remain loyal to South Dakotans and the US. So far there is only one candidate of the two parties that I would trust to hold us first, and that is Stace Nelson. With the independents in the race, it should be a very interesting debate season this fall.

  3. Mr. Weiland,

    If you wish to portray yourself as the virtuous candidate, do us a favor and rail against government overreach and regulations, because massive federal government creates massive campaign donations.

  4. It seems clear to me that people with more money also have more power than the rest of us. It also seems clear that the consolidation of media has at least doubled the power of the wealthy people who control that media. Your audience, John, in addition to Cory's are incomparably minute compared to SD's daily newspapers, tv, radio and accompanying websites. And that's only in SD.

    People like Thad have a point, sort of. First there is a question. Which came first, Big money or big government.

    Here is something that is a clear sign of the power of big money in politics: Corporate welfare completely dwarfs individual programs like SNAP, TANF, etc. Big money wants to indiscriminately cut individual and family assistance while decrying cheaters. That flies directly in the face of catching fraudsters. Cuts reduce enforcement because there are fewer and fewer staff to investigate.

    On the other hand, rampant big bank cheating is met by cries for less oversight.

    Sometimes I feel like America has become a vast carnival fun house of distorting mirrors.