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economic justice | government selection 2004

Dean is on the mark about Business

If his conservative critics (and Joe Lieberman) are to be believed, Howard Dean is an out-of-touch lefty, a peacenik, a tax-and-spend liberal who believes in the nanny state. And if Dean becomes the Democratic nominee, President Bush will happily join the chorus to caricature him as an icon of the left-wing fringe.
Dean may deserve some of the criticism. His careless rhetoric -- he has hammered Bill Clinton (news - web sites) and other Democratic centrists, for example, as "the Republican wing of the Democratic Party" -- has given his rivals handy ammunition.

But Dean's tough talk about American business shouldn't be so easily turned against him. When he castigates business executives who have "enriched themselves by deceiving everyone else," he ought to be gaining votes in working-class America. After all, two years' worth of headlines and newscasts have revealed breathtaking corporate scandals in which high-ranking executives lined their own pockets by scamming their workers as well as their investors.

Remember Enron, in which longtime employees were left jobless and drained of their retirement savings? Or how about the WorldCom fiasco, which also hung workers out to dry? Then there are the continuing revelations of fraud in mutual funds, wherein big investors pocketed extra profits by bilking small investors. That hits average Americans where it hurts, since most of us who own stock tend to buy it through mutual funds.

Oddly, however, working-class America seems less than outraged by the antics of the rich and felonious. Despite the widespread evidence of a corporate class of thieves and con artists (an international class, it seems, from reports about misdeeds at the Italian company Parmalat), average Americans seem much more upset by illegal immigrants and impoverished single mothers than they do by shameless corporate fraud.

What has happened to populism in this country? Why do struggling working-class Americans, believing they have been victimized, blame the hapless poor rather than the scheming rich?

Perhaps the disconnect can be explained, partly, by the relative affluence of the news media. While journalists of two generations ago were ink-stained wretches who barely made a living, today's journalists are usually college-educated and comfortably middle-class.

That's especially true of the Washington-based journalists who cover the White House and presidential campaigns. Most earn salaries well above the average household income of about $42,000 a year. They send their children to the same prep schools and colleges attended by the children of corporate executives; they don't relate to laid-off textile workers. So when the Washington press corps writes about Dean's criticism of business excesses, their reports are tinged with skepticism.

Or there may be another explanation: the singular success of conservative efforts to kill off populist instincts. For 20 years, a network of right-wing pundits, including talk-show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, have decried the poor as lazy and irresponsible while lauding the rich as deserving and hardworking. The result? Even laid-off factory workers are prepared to support lavish tax cuts for the wealthy while denouncing critics of corporate excess as pandering to class warfare.

There is a nefarious class warfare under way in the country, but it is directed against the poor and working classes. Just a few days ago, The Associated Press reported that the U.S. Labor Department (news - web sites) is telling businesses how to dodge paying low-income workers the overtime for which they are expected to become eligible later this year. Among the suggestions was raising workers' salaries to a new $22,100 yearly threshold, which would make them ineligible for overtime, or cutting their hourly wages, so that added overtime would keep their annual wages at the same rate.

You can't blame Howard Dean for thinking working-class Americans would be upset about that.

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Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Dean Hits the Demagoguery Pedal...Hard 11.Jan.2004 16:53

Lenni Brenner

Dean Hits the Demagoguery Pedal...Hard
Dr. Dean And The Godhead
By Lenni Brenner
1-11-4


The old saying is that Jesus doesn't vote in American elections, but that's wrong. He's a registered Democrat. True, he's too modest to run for President, but he just endorsed his favorite disciple, Howard Dean. Or maybe its the other way around?

Dean was born into an Episcopalian family, and even went to a Christian boarding school, but he ended up marrying a Jew. His kids were raised Jewish. He left the Episcopalians, in Vermont, over a subtle theological point: His pastor wouldn't give some land for bike trail that Dean favored. So he joined the Congregationalists but got pissed off at too many sermons denouncing folks who only attend once a year, and stopped going to services altogether.

Now he's running for President of the land of the freak, home of the knave, so he's doing what other politicians have done before him: nonstop pandering to any and all religions.

In an interview a few months back, he declared that "I don't think that religion ought to be part of American policy." But in fact he had already shown that it was part of his. In November 2002 he went to Israel and announced that his "view" of the Israel/Palestine issue "is closer to AIPAC's view," uncritical support for whoever runs that country, than that of Peace Now, Labor Zionism's in-house anti-war group. If elected, he solemnly swears that he will not meet with Arafat. He supports targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders. He's for the Zionist security fence, and hailed the bombing of Syria by Sharon: "If Israel has to defend itself by striking terrorists elsewhere, it's going to have to do that." In October he told the faithful at a New York synagogue that he opposes giving East Jerusalem back to the Palestinians. He started showing up in Synagogues on high holidays. He recited the prayers, in Hebrew, over Hanukkah candles, in New Hampshire.

That may help him with the minority of Jews still believing in Judaism, but Jews make up only 2% of the population. As far as his party's strategists are concerned, the name of the game is combining Zionist campaign funds with Black votes, and then fighting tooth and nail against Bush for every blessed Southern white Protestant voter. The New Republic called him "one of the most secular candidates to run for President in modern history." So now he's an out of the closet Jesus freak. Turns out that he, like Bush, prays daily.

Last week he told the Boston Globe that talking about God and Jesus are going to be key to his Southern strategy. After all, Christ was "his model." Don't we all know that "Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind. He fought against self-righteous of people who had everything.... He was a person who set extraordinary example that has lasted 2,000 years."

America being as full of religions as a pomegranate is of seeds, he has loudly muttered "inshallah," God willing, while discussing foreign policy. But, with a bunch of Midwestern and Southern primaries coming up, Jesus is in his heart. "Don't you think Jerry Falwell reminds you a lot more of the Pharisees than he does of the teachings of Jesus? And don't you think this campaign ought to be about evicting the moneychangers from the temple?"

His sudden pious public proclamations naturally intrigued the reporters who accompany him while campaigning and he was asked which was his favorite New Testament book. Without hesitating he named "Job." Except that, as everyone knows, Job is in the Old Testament, and he returned an hour later to the reporters to say he had misspoken. Now, what does he like? "Anything in the Gospels."

Perhaps readers may remember, with fondness, his monkey chatter about winning over those kind hearts and gentle people who fly the Confederate flag on their pick up trucks? His present babble about Job and Jesus comes out of the same kit. Modern 'mainstream' politics can no longer officially pander to racism, so the 'consultants' of both parties have fallen back on religion.

Dean has two kinds of liberal supporters. Naive college kids are the foot soldiers of his campaign. They lack the experience to grasp what he is doing with all his crap about the Dixie flag and Jesus. But the editorial hacks at the New York Times and The Nation know exactly what it means: President Dean won't change anything important when it comes to race relations, and he won't be found in the trenches when it comes to resisting right-wing assaults on Jefferson's "wall of separation between Church and State." This troubles them. But what choice do these do nothings have? They don't have a party of their own. Wool sellers know wool buyers. The Democratic hustlers understand that, as long as Dean stays an inch to the left of Bush on Iraq, he doesn't have to give liberals a damned thing. He can get caught in bed with an underage, unconsenting lamb and they will vote for him, some even voting for him because of the little beast.

The peace vote also divides into two camps. Some liberals show up at anti-war demos. But most do nothing beyond that to build the movement, except to publicly worry about how ANSWER and other coalitions are too extreme, especially about Palestine/Israel. It doesn't occur to these mental powerhouses that there is something a wee bit wrong about telling people to vote for a 'peace candidate' who has never in his life showed up at even one anti-war march or civil rights demo.

The other grouping consists of serious doers who organize rallies and marches. They have been inspired by the wave of anti-Iraq war demos, here and world wide. But now they, like the liberals, are confronted with the fact that this year is an election year. Who is their candidate?

The truth is that they have none and too many. Nader is an iffy-maybe possibility. But he isn't looking for the Green Party nomination, he isn't clear on Palestine/Israel, and is hardly building demos re Iraq. The Greens will probably run a candidate, especially if Nader doesn't run as an independent. ANSWER's leaders are in the Workers World Party. They will run a candidate. So will the Socialist Workers Party, who were the prime leaders of the Vietnam anti-war movement, but who haven't done a thing to distinguish themselves since. The Peace and Freedom Party is on the ballot in California, but it did miserably in the gubernatorial race there, and it doesn't exist anywhere else. The Socialist Party is running a candidate, but the party is minuscule and invisible to the public.

So what do we do? Boycott the election? Vote for one of the above? If so, which one? Or does it matter?

It is impossible to see a left candidate winning. But Dean's gallop into unblushing demagoguery opens up serious possibilities of educating the youth and other healthy elements, in the anti-war movement and beyond. Ossified liberals will denounce us if we tell people that a vote for Dean is unprincipled, even if he were to win, and there is no assurance of that. But so what? We will go on building the anti-war movement. And we remind people, now, that the Vietnam era movement did get us out of the war, even though the Democrats lost the 1968 and 1972 elections.

Now is the time to start organizing public panels on what the left should do re the elections. Don't wait for someone else to do it. All groups with credibility on either the local or national level should invite the above mentioned candidates, including Nader, to give us the reasons why we should vote for them. And maybe, just maybe, they could also begin to discuss building a serious party, opposed to the bipartisan demagogues and imperialists.

Lenni Brenner, editor of 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis
 http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1569802351/counterpunchmaga