Trump Tax: Capitalism at its Finest. Commentary from Richard Wolff

Retake has many times detailed all that is wrong with this tax bill, but today we turn to Richard Wolff for his look at how the confluence of Democratic and GOP parties have increasingly coalesced around a capitalist system and those who benefit from it. And how this is causing some to question capitalism and both parties.

Tax Bill Defines GOP as Ultimate Expression of Capitalist Greed–

But Are the Democrats Really Defenders of Justice?

Only corporate execs, the 1% and some seriously misinformed people (more on that later)  are happy about this tax bill. If you want to read about the details of all that is wrong with the Trump Tax plan, click here. If you’ve read it all before, here is a different perspective on some potential implications of this wealth grab.

I have long been a great fan of Richard Wolff. He does weekly radio broadcasts on economic policy on KSFR and was a keynote speaker at the Public Banking Conference in Santa Fe, several years ago. Truth-Out published Wolff’s latest article which takes a different look at the tax bill, exposing it as the ultimate manifestation of decades of capitalist collusion by both major parties.

Wolff identifies how the Democrats have failed to grasp the need for posing a credible and justice-based alternative to the GOP tax plan, something that Retake has also sought from the Democratic Party. From Wolff: “The Democrats do not act as or collaborate with or try to build a real social opposition. As far as the party goes, there are no demonstrations, no mass mobilizations: The Democrats vote and lose and make weak speeches to ever-smaller audiences. Democrats seem to fear losing major donations and donors were they to mount real opposition. The primary loyalty of major donors is to the capitalist system that undergirds their social position. This or that form of capitalism is of much less importance. The GOP gets this, too. Both parties now pander to the same donors; they have become, more than before, two wings of a party unified in its devotion to capitalism.” If you want more on this, click here for a blog on the Democrats and their allegiance to capitalism.

The Democratic Party’s response to Trump has been entirely temperate, verbally flailing at the injustice in every GOP affront, but never taking the higher ground and introducing a justice-based alternative or seeking alliances with progressive organizations to generate a more high profile resistance to all things Trump and never calling on its constituents to hit the streets. Why? Wolff would say that doing so would force the Democrats to take that higher ground and make a more substantive case against Wall St., neoliberalism and capitalism. The Democratic Party is NOT the party of Occupy.

Or in Wolff’s words: “What neither party grasps is that, as their theoretical and practical differences over forms of capitalism shrank, the system itself became again the issue. An entire generation grew up amid the oscillation between GOP and Democratic administrations and Congresses since the 1970s. That generation watched and learned as both major parties supported and sustained capitalism, speaking and acting as though no other system existed or was worth considering. That same generation has acutely experienced capitalism’s flaws and failures: poor job opportunities, school debt, grotesque inequality, and so on.”

But Wolff also notes that: “since the crash of 2008, that generation has shown a greater consciousness of the potential power of alternative systems, and has come to question, challenge and shift its loyalties away from capitalism.” This is the wing of the Democratic Party that the DNC, Pelosi, and Schumer all fear, the ones that signed the OurRevolution petition and then had Nina Turner blocked from delivering them at the DNC. But worse than this is that the Democrats fear unleashing an Occupy-like attack on capitalism in order to educate those blue-collar workers who have been so poorly served by capitalism and neoliberalism and Democrats.

Reflecting upon the end of the Cold War:  “Capitalism, we were told, had “won.” A generation later, capitalism finds itself in deepening difficulties: economic, political and ideological. Socialisms of various kinds have re-emerged as alternatives to an increasingly contested capitalism.” With this claim came the myriad analyses of how communism and by extension socialism had failed. Ongoing media propaganda of the failures of socialism, propaganda that failed to reference the US’ persistent economic, political and military undermining of any and all socialist governments.

However, post 2008, Wolff notes:  “other kinds of socialism are increasingly challenging those remnants among the critics of capitalism. Many of these reflect socialist self-criticisms constructed around key history-based questions: 1Why did the USSR implode?1 1Why have the People’s Republic of China and other ‘socialist’ economies opened increasingly to private capitalist enterprises?’ ‘How did the statism of socialist economies contribute to undemocratic political and cultural systems?'”

Wolff also points to the many local experiments that are based upon cooperatives and micro-enterprise as manifestations of a different, more humanistic economic model: “Then there is a socialism whose approach is to refocus priorities on the micro-level — the enterprise — rather than the macro-level — the state. In this version, the emphasis is on the radical reorganization of the enterprise, away from the hierarchical capitalist to the democratic cooperative. In the latter, workers become their own collective employer as the division between employee and employer dissolves.”

Wolff concludes somewhat optimistically, feeling that Trump and the GOP may well have gone too far and exposed the myth of capitalism in America. “In the ongoing process of transition from capitalism to the next system, capitalism’s critics are extending and deepening the truths they speak. They are increasingly directing those truths to the power of capitalism as expressed in the policies and politics of both Republicans and Democrats. They are looking and working for an alliance with real, organized oppositional political power, even as they are building it themselves. They want a powerful partner for their truth.” That partner has not emerged as yet except in a myriad of local initiatives across the country. I don’t have the crystal ball needed to see whether that partner will be a reinvigorated Democratic Party pressed to the left by national activist groups Working Families, OurRevolution, PDA, Indivisible, Democratic Socialists of America, and LEAP or by local groups like Retake or a third party that emerges if the Democrats fail to respond to that pressure.

But one thing seems clear to me: the ultimate challenge is to overcome the iron grip on reality held by the GOP, Fox and the billionaire class led by the Koch brothers and their ilk. As long as blue collar voters rely on these purveyors of an alternative reality where a wealth grab by the 1% is promoted as something ‘great for the middle class,” we have an uphill struggle. And while Wolff correctly sees the tax bill as an opportunity to pull the curtain on the GOP and Trump. The challenge is finding the mechanism for ensuring that GOP voters see the truth behind this bill and that the Democrats see the opportunity here as well and change their messaging, policies and campaign practices to engage those voters who see and experience capitalism for what it is and are hungry for alternatives.

This is one place we can find hope, even in the wake of the devastating tax bill’s passage. Here, there is real hope for real change.

Categories: Economic Justice, Community & Economic Development

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1 reply

  1. Another thought provocative article that has at its heart a troubling tendency. That tendency has to do with our desire to put labels on things, such as systems of governance or economics (capitalism and socialism).
    Labels are necessary for us to communicate with each other, whether describing other people or systems of governance. However, they also grossly oversimplify the true complex nature of the underlying thing and become colored with societal and personal biases over time. It would be an interesting but perhaps futile effort to leave all these labels behind and just try to define from whole cloth a new “system”. An acceptable goal for such a system of governance or economics would be to best serve the needs of most humans while recognizing (and not overly penalizing) the needs of those that are more on the fringes in terms of their tendencies (desire for power, wealth, self-adulation, individualism etc.). The basis of such a system would have to be on a deep, comprehensive and honest understanding of human nature and its dependency on the natural world. In doing so we would have to overcome our biases and to see our differences not as faults but as features to be properly utilized within this system. The outcome would likely be some mixed thing that would have elements of previously defined “isms.”
    I have always viewed socialism as not just as “shared” versus “private” ownership of things and not as excluding or versus capitalism. In my view it is the nature of the thing to be owned whether it is best to be shared or private allowing some capitalistic enterprise. This may be naive and certainly not consistent with official definitions and definitely not with how these terms become politicized (as was done during the Reagan era with “liberalism”). Clearly wealth and its accumulation is always a powerful force when it comes to human behavior and it would be extremely naive to think it could be eliminated as a corruptive influence in all dealings public or private. However, we have and can again do a much better job in containing its influence in both our private and public lives.
    In addition, any system should be designed with the understanding that decay and corruption are only natural and that the design should incorporate the property of being self-referential with a feedback loop intending to prevent corruption from getting so bad that the only way forward is to destroy and start over.
    Finally, labels have a tendency to divide us in ways that perhaps resulted in the worst possible outcome in our last presidential election. I strongly believe that seeing both major parties as fundamentally the same as a root cause of that outcome. I would argue that under our winner take all system, third parties will only serve as spoilers for the party that the third party is closest to ideologically. Maybe, over time, that third party will eventually eliminate the party it is closest to but that will only result in a new two party system. I think that it is more effective to turn our energies to taking the party that represents the opposition (however limited) to that party that is most aligned with the 1 percent and drive it to a more socialistic ideology.
    OK enough naive ranting from me.

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