Monday, October 4, 2010

That Other Friedman: Tommy Boy Recognizes the Problem, Fails to Blame Himself

To me, Thomas Friedman defines the term "useful idiot."  A tireless cheerleader for neolib/neocon policies, you can always count on Tommy Boy to butcher the English language to almost make a point.

Over the weekend,  Tommy Boy had an opinion piece calling for a third political party to "rip open [our] two-party duopoly."  While I have no real issue with the concept of the third party, I think the problems we face do not spring from the two-party system but from the common neolib/neocon ideology that underlies both parties' policies, a primary feature of which is Tommy Boy's own Chicago School neoliberal economics.

Here's how TOF ("That Other Friedman") sets up his argument:
There is a revolution brewing in the country, and it is not just on the right wing but in the radical center. I know of at least two serious groups, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, developing “third parties” to challenge our stagnating two-party duopoly that has been presiding over our nation’s steady incremental decline.
Sorry, there is no "revolution" brewing, and there's no "radical center."  The "center" is defined by the neoliberal Washington Consensus and its financialized economy.  Maybe some of Tommy Boy's neoliberal elite buddies are tired of the polarizing rhetoric of the two parties, but it is doubtful that anybody he knows would actually govern differently.
“We basically have two bankrupt parties bankrupting the country,” said the Stanford University political scientist Larry Diamond. Indeed, our two-party system is ossified; it lacks integrity and creativity and any sense of courage or high-aspiration in confronting our problems. We simply will not be able to do the things we need to do as a country to move forward “with all the vested interests that have accrued around these two parties,” added Diamond. “They cannot think about the overall public good and the longer term anymore because both parties are trapped in short-term, zero-sum calculations,” where each one’s gains are seen as the other’s losses.
No, we don't have "two bankrupt parties bankrupting the country," we have a morally bankrupt ideology-- neoliberalism-- bankrupting the country, and the fundamentals of that ideology are shared by both parties as well as by Tommy Boy.  The reason why neoliberals "cannot think about the overall public good and the longer term" is because neoliberalism deleted the very concept of  "the overall public good" (i.e., "there is no society"), and the financialized neoliberal economy forces politicians to focus on the short term.  That's how neoliberalism works: citizens are reduced to narcissistic consumers and political and business leaders have to focus on their respective "business cycles" to ensure they stay on top.
We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party that will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies.
Spoken like a true neoliberal technocrat. 
“If competition is good for our economy,” asks Diamond, “why isn’t it good for our politics?”
If competition were good for the economy, we'd have it.  We don't.  The reality is that competition is BAD for a financialized economy because real competition disrupts the illusion of perpetual growth that makes the FIRE sector a lot of money.  J.P. Morgan realized in the late 19th century that competition is bad for business, if you're an investment banker.   Monopoly is a feature of neoliberal policy.
We need a third party on the stage of the next presidential debate to look Americans in the eye and say: “These two parties are lying to you. They can’t tell you the truth because they are each trapped in decades of special interests. I am not going to tell you what you want to hear. I am going to tell you what you need to hear if we want to be the world’s leaders, not the new Romans.”
That's a good idea in theory, but in practice all we're likely to see from a third party is somebody like Tommy Boy pimping the same neoliberal policies that got us into this mess.  The problem is not the polticial system but the rules that define how that system operates, and those rules are embodied in the neoliberal Washington Consensus.  All the political theater is just a show meant to distract the masses from what's really happening, and Tommy Boy is playing his own role by keeping people focused on the spectacle of politics instead of the reality that neoliberal policies like "free" trade and globalization (both championed by TOF) are the real cause of the economic disaster that we're living through.