There's a war on for the heart of our party, and it seems that Speaker Pelosi has chosen sides. In a story that lamentably hasn't recieved the coverage that it deserves, Speaker Pelosi shows that she clearly didn't get the message of last month's election. The base of people power is populism, the sovereignty of the people.
Speaker Pelosi has a arranged a series of seminars for freshman representatives. On Wednesday, December 5, freshman representatives will be subjected to indoctrination in economics of fucking the people who sent you to Washington over by Robert Rubin, a free trade fanatic from the Clinton administration. It gets worse, Speaker Pelosi banned Labor from sending representatives to offer an opposing view. Never in my life did I think that I would see a Democratic speaker of the House ban Labor from talking to the people's representatives.
From William Greider writing for the Nation. Greider write about the response of Labor leaders when told that Rubin would have the stage to himself.
When labor officials heard about this, they asked to be included since they have very different ideas about what Democrats need to do in behalf of struggling workers and middle-class families. Pelosi decided against it. This session, her spokesman explains, is only about "fiscal responsibility," not globalization and trade, not the deterioration of wages and disappearing jobs. Yet those subjects are sure to come up for discussion. Rubin gets to preach his "free trade" dogma with no one present to rebut his facts and theories.
A fundamental debate is growing within the party around these economic issues and Pelosi knows this. It is seriously unwise for this new Speaker to leave an impression she has already chosen sides. The interpretation by Washington insiders will be: Pelosi is "safe;" she is not going to threaten Rubin's Wall Street orthodoxy. Far-flung voters will begin to conclude Democrats are the same-old, same-old money party. This is the sort of party "unity" that can earn Pelosi a very short honeymoon.
But this isn't just about one seminar for freshman Representatives, it's about a war for the heart of the party.
While I think that the dichotomy between what Sirota termed the People Party vs. the Money Party is oversimplified, what he's trying to capture is very real and very threatening to the interests of working people. My operating theory is that Sirota's suffering from a subdermal hematoma after hearing about Pelosi banning Labor from the seminar this Wednesday. At this point, and after having detailed the numerous things ways that that the party leadership is betraying working people, I think all he can see is red.
Sirota's not alone though. In chronicling the election of populist candidates in Ohio, Virginia, and Montana, the New York Times identified the players in the battle going in the party between the Clintonites and the representatives of Labor. That article is now behind a subscription wall, but from that article.
Just as the populists have organized, tentatively calling their group Shared Prosperity, so has the Democratic establishment. Its counterpart is "the Hamilton Project," formed last spring to elaborate policies in anticipation of a Democratic Congress and, in 2008, a Democratic victor in the presidential election. Mr. Orszag, who was a senior economist in the Clinton administration, directs the project. The financing comes from wealthy Democrats, among them Mr. Rubin.
Labor isn't content to sit by idly and allow the new Congress to pursue the same failed economic policies that have seen America divide economically. Bloomberg details the division in greater detail noting that while there are multiple cleavages at work the principal divide is over free trade deal.
Labor leaders and the nascent "Shared Prosperity" group want to see the new Congress put new trade deals on hold until labor protections can be guaranteed. The group of Wall Street backed economists organized as the "Hamilton Project" and financed in large party by Rubin want to push further trade deals, and limit personal injury lawsuits.
While Labor leaders and Rubin have been meeting on a regular basis the hostility in the air is palpable.
Speaking on Rubin's proposed economic agenda, AFL-CIO Treasurer Richard Trumka and other leaders had little good to say.
``The strategy you propose offers little, in my view, to either bolster economic growth or address the stagnating wages and living standards of American working families,'' Trumka wrote in a Feb. 7 letter to Rubin. ``I am simply astonished that you would suggest such a politically toxic agenda for the Democratic Party.''
``When the wizards of Wall Street start dictating Democratic policy, the first to be forgotten are the Democratic voters who made these election successes possible,'' said Rick Sloan, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. ``We get screwed every time these guys grab the handles of power. They forget the need to create jobs. They are much more interested in Chinese growth than Cleveland's growth.''
For their part the principals in the Hamilton Project have not been above deriding the concerns of labor as extremist and implying that Labor just might be Communist.
Steven Rattner, co-founder of New York investment firm Quadrangle Group LLC and a member of the Hamilton Project's advisory council, gave voice to those differences in a July Wall Street Journal guest editorial.
Rattner criticized ``more extreme factions'' of the party who ``argue that the centrism of the Clinton administration doesn't adequately address 21st-century fears.'' He said they ``offer in its place statist visions of organizing economic policy around belittling American capitalism'' while trumpeting ``unionization and protection.''
While the "Shared Prosperity" group has no web page at this time, the Economic Policy Insititute is perceived to be the think tank wing of the group. The Hamilton Project already has a page up at which you can view some of their ideas for the country.
While both groups have tried to maintain cordial relations, the issues that divide aren't going away, and the perception by the Pelosi-Rubin wing of the party that this year's election was a mandate for the return of Clitonite economic policies is bound to create conflict. What makes the self-entitlement of the "Hamilton Project" group all the more enfuriating is that without the $40 Million from Labor the victory of Democrat's in November's election would likely not have occurred. The impression is that before she's even sworn in as Speaker, Pelosi deigned to stab Labor in the back.
And all this has implication for 2008 and beyond. Hillary Clinton is the most likely heir to power for the group of interests behind the "Hamilton Project", while with the withdrawl of Russ Feingold from consideration, John Edwards is the most likely standard-bearer for Labor and the "Shared Prosperity" group. This is not the first time that the Democratic Party had this fight.
During the New Deal, Roosevelt faced considerable opposition from the DLC of that day led by Al Smith the 1928 Democratic presidential nominee, who would endorse Republicans in 1936 and 1940 to epress his oppositon the New Deal. Searching for a fitting description of the Republicans and Demcratic traitors who fought him so vigorously on the New Deal, Roosevelt speaking to the 1936 Democratic Convention coined the term "economic royalists."
For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital - all undreamed of by the Fathers - the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.
Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.
The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.
And so it is again. The 1930 election saw Democrats pick up 52 House seats and 8 Senate seats. But it was only during the 1932 Democratic primary when Roosevlt beat out Al Smith for the nomination the the New Deal and the Democratic consensus that dominated the country during the fifth party system from 1932 to 1968.
We have a decision to make. Will the Demomcratic party fall prey to the economic royalists of the "Hamilton Project" or will the party get the message the people sent last month and adopt the policy stances of the new ecnomomic populists of the "Shared Prosperity" group? This is the fight for 2008.
I want to ask you all a favor.
I'd like for Kossacks to write a note explaining they'd like Labor leaders to be included in the seminar on Wednesday.
The form is here.
Pelosi can also be reached at her Congressional email:
Maybe we can make Pelosi change her mind about the importance of labor.