Where’s The Anger? Where Are The Consequences?

On January 6 a mob attacked the Capitol. Legislators were rushed out of their chambers and into safe rooms barely ahead of thousands of seditionists. Staff people, Senators and Representatives cowered under desks and behind barricaded doors. People died. Dozens of police were injured, many hospitalized.

Then the legislators resumed business as if nothing horrible and terrifying had happened. The newly-created Insurrection Party shouted about the theft of an election and lied about their concerns. Democrats responded with facts and logic. In the middle of the proceedings, Sen. Amy Klobuchar appeared on A Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In response to Colbert’s increasingly agitated questions, she said that the important thing was that they went back to the floor and did their job. Like Colbert, I’m stunned by the normalcy she displayed. There isn’t a hint of anger, hostility, or outrage in her face, even when she claimed to be angry about it.

Colbert asks if it upsets her at all that six Senators only changed their votes after they were physically attacked, even though they knew they were stirring up trouble around the country by repeating Trump’s big lie about election fraud. She says (my transcription):

Of course it does. But I figured my job today was to bring as many people with me and with our side as we could and to do it in a way that would give them that space. And the reason I did it is because, I made this case to our caucus, is that I want Joe and Kamala to come in with bipartisan support. I want to leave the what Joe Biden calls the grim era of demonization behind us and actually get things done. … I think what they did was atrocious, but at the same time we have to move forward as a nation.

[1] Colbert, his voice rising with emotion, asks if there shouldn’t be consequences for people who promulgated the lie that the election was stolen, consequences “… so severe that no one will ever think to foment an insurrection against this government again without shuddering at the prospect of what will happen to them.” She moves straight to “I’m a former prosecutor”, and starts talking about jailing the invaders. Colbert tries to focus her on the Senators, but she won’t answer whether they should face consequences. She launches into what a toad Trump is, and never responds about the co-toads. Colbert surrenders.

Nothing changed among Democratic politicians after that. On January 15, for example, I saw Jason Crow, D CO-6, on CNN discussing the revelation that some Representatives or their staffers might have led invaders on a reconnaissance tour of the Capitol the day before the attack, even though tours were banned. The oily flow from Crow could be used to lubricate a Mack Truck.

Where’s the demand for accountability for those shits who repeated Trump’s lies with their own imprimatur? [2] Are there no consequences for lies that undermine our democracy? Are elites just utterly free from any duties? Cruz, Hawley, Blackburn, Hyde-Smith, Marshall, Tuberville, and Kennedy are not stupid. Well, Tuberville is a couple of hundred million neurons short of a human brain. But the rest are pretty close to average in intelligence and a couple of them might pass for bright normal.

There are two who simply should be expelled immediately: Mo Brooks, R AL-05, [3] and Madison Cawthorn, R NC-11. These bastards spoke at Trump’s incitement rally and encouraged the assembled mob to action. There’s video. We know what they said, we know what they meant, and we know what happened. If Speaker Pelosi can ask the House to impeach Trump for his incitement based solely on what he said, what he meant and what happened, why can’t she summon the anger and grief we all feel and throw those anti-democratic shits out of the House?

[1] I’ve got a mental draft of remarks in response to objections to certification, starting with “I ask the Gentleman from Texas who told him there was fraud in the election? Was it the loser, the guy who lied about his own election in 2016, and has lied continuously about rigging ever since? Or was it @JohnnyFeathers39873858 Flag Flag? Or one of the witnesses dug out of internet swamps by the Loser’s elite legal team of crack lawyers? Were they vetted by the Gentleman’s brilliant staff?”

[2] I salute Freshman Representative Cori Bush, who introduced a resolution, co-sponsored by Freshman Representative Marie Newman;

St. Louis representative Cori Bush is calling for the investigation and expulsion of any representatives who objected to election certification, saying their actions lead to the Capitol riots that cost five people their lives.

Compare the aggressive action of the Freshman Congresswomen with elderly Senator Ben Carden D-MD. On January 16 on CNN Carden said expelling these seditionists was up to the voters in their states.

[3] There is a resolution calling for censure of Brooks, sponsored by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Tom Malinowski. That’s bullshit. He’ll frame it and use it in the next election.

First Steps Towards Change

I’ve written extensively about the path to neoliberalism, and there’s more to come. But with the House of Representatives now under Democratic control, I want to offer some ideas about moving towards a new understanding of the role of government in the US. In Capitalism: Its Origins and Evolution as a System of Government Bruce Scott explains the situation:

As articulated in [Chapter 13], the story of early US capitalist governance is on of a nearly 300-year commitment to a laissez-faire model of economic development. It is a story that begins and ends with the decisions of political, legal and economic actors promoting this model, thus disputing the assumption that actions were largely shaped if not quite controlled by “natural” market forces. P. 431

He thinks that after a brief Keynesian interruption, laissez-faire returned in the early 80s. Replacing a centuries-old ideology is really hard. So here are concrete steps the Democratic-controlled House could take. In each case, the House can do its work and force the Senate and its repulsive leadership to deal with the results, heightening the differences between the parties and enabling all voters to understand where their economic and social interests lie.

1. Taxes. The Trump tax bill is historically unpopular. Of the nine House Republicans representing the 25 largest users of sales and local tax deduction, six lost and one more is in danger as the vote count procedes in CA-45. Voting against the bil didn’t help either. Voting against the bill didn’t help either. At least four of those Republicans lost. The bill is widely regarded as grossly favorable to the rich and their corporations. The House has the Constitutional power to originate all tax laws. Richard Neal, D. Mass, is the ranking member. He says his priorities are health care, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and getting Trump’s tax returns. He should add a new tax bill to his list. Some suggestions:

A. Raise tax rates on the top earners. There should be several new brackets for the highest earners, with a top tax rate of 60%. The current capital gain tax rate should stay the same, but it should be raised in each bracket above $250K to a top level of 50%.

B. Corporate tax rates should be increased to 35%. For companies reporting to the SEC, the tax base should be the higher of the amount computed under the tax code and the amount reported as income to the SEC. For the largest private companies, the top tax rate should be based on income computed in accordance with the reporting requirements of the SEC. Income should be taxed at the same rate regardless of where it is earned. Audits should be increase so that at least half of all people in the top brackets are audited every other year.

C. There should be a wealth tax, computed at the rate of 1% of the wealth of individuals in excess of $25M with some higher brackets. A similar tax should be imposed on all taxable entities at higher levels. Foundations and all dynastic transfer entities should be taxed at much higher rates unless they distribute their assets at very high rates per year. PACS and other dark money groups should be taxed at 60%, or 40% if they publicly disclose the true donors.

D. Every taxpayer with adjusted gross income equal to or less than the median income should get a check from the government for $2000 regardless of the amount of taxes they pay. That should be phased out over the next $100K in income. Each check should be accompanied by a letter from the Treasury explaining it and noting that it was paid for by adjusting tax rates to a more fair level.

E. The cap on FICA and Medicare taxes should be reduced to $100K, and should be re-imposed on incomes in excess of $250K. The funds would be given to the Social Security Trust Fund and the Medicare Trust Fund, then to fund Medicaid, then to pay for increased audits.

2. The House Financial Services Committee will be chaired by Maxine Waters. it should investigate the connections between all banks and Russian oligarchs. This would include Deutsche Bank. This will enable a careful look at Trump’s relationships with those entities, and who knows what we will find out.

3. The House Judiciary Committee will be chaired by Jerry Nadler. It should obtain transcripts of the testimony of Samuel Alito, Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh from each hearing in which they were confirmed to any judicial post. Then there should be a subpoena-powered investigation to determine just how much each lied and whether to impeach. The steady drumbeat of this testimony and investigation should lay the groundwork for reforms, including court-packing in the future. It may also impact the willingness of these hacks to strike down legislation on ideological grounds.

4. The Environment Subcommittee will be chaired by Peter Tonko, NY-20. None of the members are senior in rank. Nancy Pelosi should elevate this Subcommittee to Committee status and install an aggressive younger Member as Chair. A highly aggressive group of staffers should be hired, including scientists. We cannot live on this planet unless we start taking serious action. Noisy hearings should be held immediately forcing fossil fuel executives to explain their support of science denialism and continued pollution of the air and water. Renewable energy execs should be brought in to offer expertise in expansion of their efforts. I don’t know enough to offer better ideas, but this is critically important, and immediate action must be taken.

5. Every committee and subcommittee should commence oversight hearings of the agencies under their jurisdiction, focused on whether the agency is carrying out Congressional intent and on corruption. Each ashould focus on a crucial problem faced by the agency. For example there should be hearings on Flint water, the VA computer fiasco, and Puerto Rico after the hurricanes, including recovery, debt, and possible statehood. There are plenty of other issues that are not being addressed. Hold hearings.

6. The rules of the hearings should be changed. At least one younger member should be put in charge of asking at each hearing and be given at least 30 consecutive minutes. That member should also be responsible for public appearances. That way we can find out the skills of each member. Are they better at questioning, or staffing or public appearances? Which ones are charismatic even in routine matters?

7. There should be a steady stream of public appearances by Members forcing their actions into public awareness. Pelosi should make sure that the olds are not the public face of the Democratic Party; we don’t need her or Steny Hoyer or James Clyburn on the TV. We need the energetic younger people to step up and act. Democrats need to show their faces so that every American feels represented in government. This is how the bench is deepened.

Each of these steps will demonstrate that government is working and doing something necessary. That is the first step to changing the framework people use to understand the government. I read somewhere recently that most people’s lives are not affected by elections. That may have been true once upon a time, but now failure to act will have terrible consequences. Left alone, capitalism will kill democracy and then the planet. Government is our only defense against overwhelming greed.

What else?

Now back to Scott and Wood on the future of democracy in a capitalist world.