Sunday, May 07, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Branko Milanovic reviews Mike Lofgren's The Deep State, and highlights how entrenched wealth and power have hijacked our public institutions for their own benefit:
The deep state includes the old-fashioned military-industrial complex, top of Wall Street and Silicon valley, think tanks and foundations, and the mainstream media, most of them (with the obvious exceptions of Silicon valley and Hollywood) located in Washington, DC and New York. These are people who often seamlessly move between government, its legislative and executive branches, and then when not in power, populate think tanks, sit on the boards of large financial, IT or military-related companies or pen editorials for the mainstream media. They are linked by shared backgrounds, same ideology and even more strongly by shared economic interests. It could be almost said that they are all but one person, so at ease at seemingly very different tasks, Deputy Secretary of Defense, writer of an editorial in the Washington Post, analyst in a top Washington think tank. As Tocqueville wrote of another deep state from two and half centuries ago: “The nobles held identical positions, had the same privileges, the same appearance; there was, in fact, a family likeness between them, and one might almost say they were not different men but essentially the same men everywhere" (The old regime and the French revolution).

There are two very strong points of Lofgren’s book. First, Lofgren is somebody who knows the system from the inside (he worked for almost thirty years in Congress, sat on budget and armed services committees and knows personally a number of key political players). He thus brings to the book a knowledge that a political science professor just simply does not have. Second, Lofgren shows that there are strong links between domestic and foreign policy preferences of the deep state. The rising political power of the rich (documented by Larry Bartels and Martin Gilens) and increasing income inequality (documented by so many that it is superfluous to give citations) are, as Lofgren shows, intrinsically linked to domestic policy choices that reduce taxes on the rich, provide an increasing number of loopholes for the rich, curb social spending, but also (and only apparently contradictorily) increase military spending. Why the latter? Because the beneficiaries from the military spending are precisely the members of the deep state. As Lofgren argues, TARP and military spending are just the two facets of the same coin: the use of government resources for the benefit of the rich.
What Lofgren argues is that the deep state has effectively kidnapped the government. Its objective is to use this enormous money-churning machine to help its own members. But the deep state was able to kidnap the government because it was able to kidnap the Congress, that is to make sure that majority of the members of Congress vote the way that the deep state wants. They were able to do so thanks to an electoral system where winning is practically synonymous with having access to more money than your opponent. This is why Lofgren in the last chapter, where he discusses the changes that need to be done, puts the reform of electoral funding (“ Eliminate private money from public elections”) as the number 1 priority. It all starts there, and then logically unfolds further.
- Carole Cadwalladr discusses the similar takeover of the UK's democratic state, while Angela Monaghan reports on the increasing concentration of wealth in a small number of billionaires who have been able to use Brexit-related turmoil to their advantage. And Make Votes Matter highlights the strong public desire across all parties for a proportional electoral system which isn't so easily dominated by a couple of groups of insiders.

- Andy Blatchford reports that once again, growth in job numbers isn't being reflected in what Canadian workers are paid. And Jen St. Denis points out the work of the BC Employment Standards Coalition showing how often employers don't bother to pay what they owe.

- Finally, Jaime Watt writes that the reality of constant political campaigning severely limits the time and resources governments dedicate to actual governance.

No comments:

Post a Comment