Bannon must go, but after that, Protesters should listen to Bernie

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Steve Bannon ran, and is still likely pulling the strings at, Breitbart, the “Stormfront” in a business suit with a skinny tie. Bannon once characterized it as enabling what he called the “alt right,” by which he meant a slightly more presentable version of the skinheads, KKK, bikers, Neo-Nazis and other far right fringe supremacist groups that might appeal to today’s youth, including the educated.

Breitbart has been wildly successful, since conspiracy theories, race resentment, Islamophobia, misogyny and other base emotions have a visceral appeal.

I would argue that the success of the Neo-Neo-Nazis calling themselves “alt-” lies in an unconscious class dilemma that they displace onto race.

That is, not only must Trump dump Bannon, but so should the youth protesters who have been misled by Breitbart fake news. They should turn instead to a different challenger of the status quo, Bernie Sanders

Since the Reagan restructuring of the tax code in the 1980s and following on further such changes under Clinton and Bush, the United States is becoming. more and more unequal society. The top 1% owned 25 percent of the privately held wealth in the US in the 1950s. How much they own now is controversial but it is between 36% and 42%. The trend line is not in doubt. They take home 20% of the country’s income annually now, up from 10% in the 1960s.

These inequalities build up year after year. If 1% gets 20% this year and next year and the year after, after a while they will have it all.

This increasing economic inequality is bad for workers, lower middle class and middle class people but very good for the upper middle class and the wealthy.

The rich and government institutions in the US have for decades conspired to knock any realistic sense of class out of the American public. Workers making $21,000 a year, middle class families pulling down $40,000, and businessmen making a million dollars a year are all typically rolled up into “the middle class” in American political discourse. But the fact is that the top 10% or the top 1% or most importantly the top 0.1 percent benefit from a different set of policies than do working and middle class Americans.

Businessmen like few regulations and not having to pay fringe benefits, and very low taxes on business earnings and capital gains, so that even though they use the national infrastructure most intensively, the working and middle classes are made to pay for it.

If you want to understand why the Republican Party often sounds like it is on Mars, denying Climate Change, arguing that all problems can be solved by lower taxes, not wanting universal health insurance, etc., you have to understand that it represents the 1%, not the 99%. It lies to the 99% about standing up for the little guy, as Trump did. But look at their actual legislation to see whom they help and whom they hurt.

The move to greater income and wealth inequality destroys opportunity for upward mobility among working and middle class youth. Europe now has more opportunities for upward mobility than the United States!

So the angry young people protesting about being replaced or being made redundant aren’t wrong. They are victims of class oppression, and especially of Neoliberal policies that privatize public services like education and even water delivery and deregulate in favor of businesses and against consumers. They are wrong that this is being done to them by Jews or globalism or Mexicans. Most Jews are suffering from these policies along with everyone else, and the most articulate critic of inequality in our time is not Trump or Bannon but Bernie Sanders.

Bannon, a multi-millionaire, tells these young people that they should idolize wealthy businessmen like Donald Trump, and that the reason they are having trouble getting a job is not increasing inequality and concentration of wealth in a few hands, but because immigrants or Latinos or African Americans are taking their jobs and pushing them to the bottom of the pile. And Muslim terrorists are lording it over them.

In fact, studies show that immigrants don’t have good enough English to take jobs away from most white workers, and that they fill different niches in the economy. Immigrants actually expand the economy and would be helping white workers and middle classes do better except for one thing. The top 1% is capturing 20% of the annual income of the country, so the expansion of GDP made possible by the immigrants isn’t going proportionally to white workers.

Bannon and Breitbart are the purveyors of the ultimate false consciousness, the illusion of race oppression to hide from their dupes the reality, of class oppression. Of course, dividing people by race and national origin and religion is extremely convenient for the Rupert Murdochs and Koch Brothers and Scaifes and others. Why do you think respectable WASPs who yearn to be invited to white tie PBS donor parties fund an Islamophobia network to the tune of tens of millions of dollars? To give people some other target to hate than their increasing share of the national wealth.

Nobody needs to hate anyone. All we have to do is go back to the tax code as it existed under Republican president Dwight Eisenhower and make sure there are opportunities for energetic young people to move up.

Trump and Bannon are taking us in the other direction. The tax code they are cooking up with the GOP Congress will be like a firehose spewing money at the wealthiest and depriving everyone else. Trump’s Scott Pruitt is destroying the EPA so that corporations can poison us at will for a profit without facing any backlash.

So the corporations and the 1% benefit from Charlottesville. Who cares about some old Confederate general? Whether a statue to him stands somewhere won’t put money in anyone’s pocket. And if young white people want to be proud of something, they can be proud of America’s role in defeating Nazism or our Catholic president Jack Kennedy’s successful moonlanding project, or American science triumphs and Nobel prizes, often won by Jews and members of other minorities. Hanging your self-worth on the Confederacy having been glorious is a fool’s errand.

So if they were smart, and really wanted to take back their country, these young people would turn to Bernie Sanders and not a hot duplicitous mess like Bannon. They would join unions and support a substantial raise in the minimum wage and get behind a single payer health insurance program. These things would all benefit them in a way that the dust of Jefferson Davis cannot. It is true that they will also benefit African-Americans and Latinos and women. That’s called synergy, when something is bigger than the sum of its parts.

It won’t help Bannon, though. It will raise his taxes and it will drain the hatred that fuels his support base.

These youth are being trained like circus animals, to hate the Left, which is the only political force that can actually rescue them. They are being trained to hate Jews and African-Americans and Latinos and Muslim-Americans, when it is only by joining forces with them that they have a prayer of outwitting the billionaires on public policy. They are being taught to reach back to rickety nineteenth century plantations for their social ideal, when the future is Elon Musk and Tesla and the gigafactory– enterprises that they can take part in if they get the right training.

Of course Trump needs to fire Bannon, whose propaganda for the Far Right in the past decade led directly to the Vanilla ISIS car-killing in Charlottesville. But more importantly, the people with genuine grievances about lack of jobs and lack of opportunity and lack of dignity need to be taught how to get those things in a positive way.

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Related video:

The Young Turks: “Steve Bannon Called Fired Jeff Lord In Racist Solidarity”

26 Responses

  1. Unemployment, poor wages, exploitation, poor housing and insecurity are the breeding grounds for fascism and bit by bit this is now starting to occur in the USA. The never ending onward march of automation relieving workers of their jobs and lively hoods adds daily to the plight of the men and women who were once workers in society. people in this situation are easy prey for the merchants of fascism and who know just how to arouse race hatred among those without hope. Over here in Europe one might have thought that after Germany and world war two, that fascism had been stamped out for good, but I can assure you, fascism is alive and well and the breeding grounds for its revival are now just about everywhere. Although in the USA Trump and his side kicks can share some of the blame for the recent right wing disturbances, they are not the cause or the symptom as they inherited both. One has to ask why is it that Obama and others before him did little or nothing about the growing tide of depression and misery of the ‘working class’ ? Scapegoating Trump in the US or scapegoating the mass of immigrants?refugees etc in Europe is just passing the buck. Had previous administrations in the US not gone on a massively expensive war spree on a campaign of ‘regime change’ and spent that money instead on US infrastructure, things might be much better there today. Further, the nightmare now unfolding in Europe with a mass exodus of people from war torn countries would not have occurred either.

  2. But more importantly, the people with genuine grievances about lack of jobs and lack of opportunity and lack of dignity need to be taught how to get those things in a positive way.

    But taught what, how, by whom? One might wish one could, but one cannot apply Reason to a storm. Plato’s Republic was composed to demonstrate that can’t be done. Canute rebuked the waves to demonstrate to over flattering courtiers where his authority did not go. There are stages that will have to unfold before society becomes differently adjusted economically. The most dangerous hurdle ahead is possible military takeover. Nobody likes to admit it too openly but ingredients for some kind of military/fascism are visible, as they were in the UK just prior to WWII with Mosley’s BUF and blackshirts. Fortunately the more advanced fascism in Europe roused people to an awareness that stamped all that out before it went too far. The situations are not the same, they never are, but from 30,000 feet similarities are identifiable.

    • If you are saying that progressive political movements and ideas cannot be propagated, that is ahistorical.

      • I see how people with genuine grievances, lack of jobs, lack of opportunity and lack of dignity may be, and often have been, roused, I simply wonder how they may be taught. Once a system is established teaching can readily be, and often is, applied to maintain it but I don’t see how one would teach change, or where it has ever been done historically. Indeed, even were it possible, it would, surely, have to get into a system both practically and ideologically controlled by those whose interests are essentially a status quo able to enchain thought processes but not fill empty bellies. Oswald Mosley wasn’t a fascist just demonised as such, he was actually a fairly enlightened political thinker and dangerous to the system, but then Marx wasn’t a Marxist either. Hopefully Trump and the whole preceding election shenanigans will rouse a majority to something more responsible, but for now it looks like it’s getting uglier by the day

        • “I don’t see how one would teach change, or where it has ever been done historically.”

          Highlander School. US Labor Movement and Civili Rights movement

      • Right on!

        Considering that most of the G8 is socialist at the very least with regards to health care, it is the converse that is lacking empirical evidence. Our elites are too blinded. I am curious to how much longer the “center” as dictated by monied elites will hold. It took a cosmetic hit in the last presidential election cycle, when it became clear that the electorate will vote against the center regardless of the outcome. Despite the large public disapproval and protest against the current economic policies, by and large the social and economic fabric that skews wealth transfers to the elite will be further strengthened at least for the next three years, if not for much longer. The question becomes just how much further can the American people be forced to accept in terms of economic and social injustice. They already are forced to accept too much.

        Do our elites really wish to take the risk of further shaping large public anger that could give way to social and economic upheaval, which in turn effect their wealth? Instead, they could just fund a modicum of social safety nets in terms of health care and education that provides for a less riskier gamble. Substitute the wasteful spending on foreign interventions in the Near East for domestic spending on health care and education, and you’ll be at least a quarter of the way there in terms of making a more stable society.

    • uff… This election cycle pageantry is too much. It’s always surprising to me the new heights of deceit and vitriol that we achieve each successive election cycle on largely superficial campaigns.

      Public financing of elections would put a dent in this nonsense.

  3. In the corporate world, “synergy” is a euphemism for layoffs. Management will say that they found “synergy” between different groups in the organization, when they mean that they found various workers to be redundant.

  4. Sort of an aside, but I think 1%/99% concept is a convenient concept to ignore the poor. The implication is that the bottom 20% with an average annual income around $25,000 is in the same boat as the 80 to 99% group with an average annual income of $265,000. There’s got to be a difference in urgency between putting food on the table, and putting a Porsche in the garage.

    Of course the conservatives (and many “moderates”) are more concerned with the Porsche problem (ugh, taxes) than the food issue (ugh, food stamps).

    I’m a 100% Bernie rooter too.

  5. Loyal Hoag

    The fear that minorities will take white man’s jobs and station (no matter how low that station was, or is) have been used as a scapegoat and foisted as a long standing weapon used by the elite to obfuscate the fact it is actually them (elites) that are doing the damage.

    • It was the Satanic bargain my ancestors in the Southern colonies took 350 years ago to be freed from indentured servitude when they had the power to wreck the nascent plantation society by joining the ongoing uprisings of the time. The entire argument is a construct: the jobs (growing dead-end tobacco), the station (henchman as autonomous yeoman farmer), and the idea of race itself were built by the oligarchs on terms that they dictated. But I suspect many of my ancestors came to enjoy the slave-whipping part.

  6. After the tragedy, an earlier article came up on my twitter feed.

    DARK ESSAYS BY WHITE HOUSE STAFFER ARE THE INTELLECTUAL SOURCE CODE OF TRUMPISM

    In Sept 2016 an anonymous author posted an article supporting Trump and in Feb 2017 it was learned that that author was Michael Antone who.

    Antone’s article was attacked by people on both sides as seen in the following from the link above

    “One conservative retort, from the writer Ben Shapiro, was bluntly headlined, “The Widely Praised ‘Flight 93 Election’ Essay Is Dishonest and Stupid.” Shapiro described Anton’s essay as “incoherent, mind-numbing horseshit,” faulting him for repeating his noxious points “like a dog licking its own vomit.” Another conservative critique, from Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, described the essay as “a master class in overwriting,” and added, “seldom has a pseudonym been more needful to protect an author’s reputation.”

  7. The greedy depression of wages really got going shortly after the Kennedy Brothers were eliminated. Wage increases remained flat until the mid-1980s when wages declined then recovering in the late 1990s. Productivity has surged, but average income and wages have stagnated for almost all Americans. If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000.

    link to motherjones.com

    Since 1992 the 1% have enjoyed an at least 240% increase in income.

  8. Great column. The big question is how to replace racial resentment with consciousness of genuine class grievances. Racism is so deeply ingrained in personal identity that it will be very difficult to eradicate.

  9. The pitting of poor white folks against Black and Brown peoples in America is NOT new! The 600,000 Americans that died in the Civil War contained very few of that era’s 1%.
    In numerical terms few white Americans directly participated yet ALL benefited and continue to this very day. Slavery denial and Genocide denial IS the American way by white Americans.

  10. ” They should turn instead to a different challenger of the status quo, Bernie Sanders”
    I agree that Sen Sanders appears to be the only one talking about the real issues, but now so many Dems – angry that HRC lost – are calling him a fraud and blaming him and his supporters for her loss. I’m glad to see u believe the ideas he is promulgating are worthwhile.

  11. Outstanding comment IMO, Juan, until the last sentence — “But more importantly, the people with genuine grievances about lack of jobs and lack of opportunity and lack of dignity need to be taught how to get those things in a positive way.” — as though the right teaching is all that all these people with genuine grievances need, despite the oppression of class and the rigging of the system. En garde! — it looks to me like you let the devilish old right-wing canard of individual responsibility slip in and seize the last word.

      • Exactly! — working to change the system — way beyond trying to teach oppressed people how to succeed in it against long odds, or even that they all can succeed in it, as though it’s then all their own fault if/when they don’t.

  12. In 1971 gold was $35 an ounce, or $1.13 per gram. The US federal minimum wage was $1.60 per hour. That means it only took the least skilled of workers just 70% of one hour to earn an amount equivalent to 1 gram of gold.

    Right now, gold is $1,273 an ounce, or $40.95 a gram. The US federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. So, a minimum wage worker today will have to work over 5 and a half hours to earn that same gram of gold.

    The 1% hijacked the money, which is why everybody’s broke and everything’s in ruins.

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