Monthly Archives: September 2008

Progressive Shock Doctrine

If you haven't read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, now is the time to read it. And I do mean now, right now, before they apply any so-called "remedy" to our economic meltdown. This is the type of situation when the shock doctrine, as Kelin describes it, provides an opening for all sorts of shenanigans. If you don't have time to read the book (tisk tisk) listen to this fascinating but badly recorded interview with Klein by John Amato for a primer on how that works).

Today, Digby reprinted an email from a reader, and I think the idea is f'ing brilliant.

1. Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine" describes the process that seems to be at play here, but as she points out, there's no reason the same crisis can't be used to promote aggressive progressive policies. This is a historic opportunity to aggressively lobby for a progressive alternative (i.e. a massive Keynesian "emergency" training / public works / social safety net program in the New Deal tradition). You are in a good position to make the argument if you think it is worthwhile.

2. For the first time in many years, the GOP can't fall back on the "virtues of the free market" in debating this. If the market had not failed massively, then no bailout is necessary.

3. For the first time in many years, the GOP can't fall back on the "massive government spending/intervention" complaint in debating this. That complaint applies equally to this plan.

4. The GOP/Wall St.line is that this is as bad as it's gotten since the 30s (the last time Wall St. screwed everyone). This provides a perfect opening for the "worked before / can work again" line for progressive policies that have long been politically impossible.

5. Polls show that many Americans are unsure about the bailout, but those stating an opinion oppose it. Those who are "unsure" are likely primed to oppose this bailout, but think something must be done. It is hard to justify politically giving taxpayer money to the very same people who caused this so they can keep their houses in the Hamptons so that bad effects do not trickle down to average Americans (hence the "it's so very complicated" argument). By comparison, a new New Deal is very palatable to the extent people are convinced something does need to be done.

6. The economics of a bottom-up program are compelling. Certainly at least as compelling as a top-down bailout in terms of protecting Americans from the effects of a severe economic downturn.

7. A new version of the New Deal would create a Democratic majority for years to come. That's why the GOP has fought so hard for so long to dismantle the old New Deal. Democrats could emphasize that this is a temporary, emergency program – just as the Wall St. proposal allegedly is, but after the program's sunset there would be a strong new constituency supportive of extending this (and other progressive programs) and expanding the Democratic base of support.

8. McCain is trying to pose as a populist (and bank on Democrats floating a "compromise" bill he can oppose). Shifting the debate with an actual wholesale alternative puts him in a very difficult position, and at the very least prevents him from scoring cheap political points.

Anyway, the exact mechanisms of the plan aren't the essential thing right now. The point is that this is the single most spectacular moment of failure of the right wing "free market" mythology, and it comes on the heels of a number of other spectacular Republican failures. This is an unprecedented opportunity to aggressively put forward a wholesale progressive alternative to the GOP and stand firm.

I could not agree with this email more. Not a bit.

The Great and Powerful Digby responded thusly:

Why not?

The first point about Naomi Klein and a progressive shock doctrine is absolutely correct. In crises, the usual suspects swoop in to take advantage of the situation and leave the average people holding the bag. It's disorienting to see this happen to the biggest economy in the world, but there's really no structural reason why it shouldn't happen to us too. The concept of the doctrine is to be prepared to take advantage of all openings — and this is an opening.

The Shock Doctrine depends upon complexity. But politics depends on simplicity. The Republicans are relying on the voters' common sense reaction to something that seems to favor the people who caused the problem. It's very hard to argue with that and they might just persuade some people out there that they know who the real enemy is and will smite them — Big Government and Wall Street. (And in any case, it's the smart move for a party out of power which needs to rebuild itself after being discredited. They can't afford to be associated with this and they know it.)

Go on, READ THE WHOLE POST. IT'S BRILLIANT!

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