March 23, 2009

[H/t Heather]

We've been hearing a lot from the likes of Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck that President Obama and the Democrats are imposing "socialism" on America.

Which tends to make anyone who knows much about socialism -- beyond, that is, the bumper-sticker political awareness of a 13-year-old -- wonder what the hell they're talking about. It's pretty obvious by now that these are unrepentant capitalists in the Obama Administration -- just not laissez-faire capitalists. Socialism? Please.

Bill Moyers wondered the same thing. So he went out and found an unrepentant socialist -- a Cal-Riverside prof named Mike Davis -- and interviewed him. As Moyers put it in the interview:

Moyers: You know, Mike, there's so much talk from that side of the spectrum raising the specter of Socialism. And I thought I might as well talk to a real Socialist about what the term means. I mean, I cannot find anyone in this country advocating the abolition of private markets and the wage systems or nationalizing all the major industries, I mean, no one's arguing for supplanting capitalism, are they?

Davis: I am.

But Davis, as he makes clear, stands in contradistinction to Barack Obama, as well as to most Democrats. Like most actual socialists, he considers Keynesian economic measures like this administration's to be half-solutions at best.

The real heart of the interview, though, came when they discussed what all this talk about "socialism" is really about:

BILL MOYERS: And yet, Obama's only been in office two months now. And there's this chorus of voices, the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page, conservative talk radio, Fox News, Lou Dobbs, CNBC's Cramer and Kudlow, all blaming Obama for the bad economy. Are those attacks sticking out where you live in California?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, I mean you know, what could be more absurd than the, you know, the people who brought this country to its knees now being the chorus of dissenters, now representing themselves as the populace? The fact that they're the ones who have erected the antenna, the lightning rod for popular anger is worrisome because if these bailouts and stimulus fail, if the country sinks deeper into what could be a very long period of stagnation if popular anger is monopolized by the demagogues on the Right, I think you could see a real resurgence of the Republican Party or at least of its most anti-immigrant economic nationalist wing.

This is something maybe not very visible on the national screen. But when you live near the border like I do in Southern California, the southern cities, areas of the Midwest, this has really invigorated what you once would have refereed to as the John Birch Society wing of the Republican Party. The vacuum left by the fall of the Soviet Union has been filled by, you know, good old-fashioned Nativism immigrant bashing.

No group is so vulnerable right now as the immigrants whose labor has sustained the California economy for the last generation, legal or un-legal. They have the fewest entitlements. They have the least safety net. And their jobs are the ones that are being impacted most directly because they work in construction services or industries that are highly sensitive to the business cycle. Some have gone back to Mexico. Mexican statistics show that. But it doesn't make sense for most people to go back. The border economy has really collapsed. The tourist economy along the border is dead. The maquiladoras, the border assembly plants are laying off. So having made huge investments to get to the United States, doesn't make a lot of sense to go back to a country where there are even fewer jobs and fewer hopes. How are people surviving? Well, in some cases, they cram five into a room. They're standing in front of Home Depots hoping they won't get picked up by the police or the immigration service. And, of course, this exists in a situation where it's very likely that our southern border and that Mexico are going to become very, very destabilized, further destabilized than they are. And this provides lots of ammunition to construct the whole, like, Versailles myth of the economic crisis. You know, to blame immigrants, to blame liberal, to blame the imaginary socialism of bank rescue plans that are fully endorsed by THE ECONOMIST or the FINANCIAL TIMES.

Indeed, all you need to do is compare and contrast Beck's performance in interviewing the head of the Communist Party USA -- whom he treats with open contempt and then talks over when he refuses to play into Beck's little McCarthyite game -- with Moyers' dignified and thoughtful interview.

And then think about just what purpose it served Glenn Beck and his bosses at Fox to trot out Sam Webber just so they could treat him like garbage: Because it sets an example.

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