The Ron Paul Dixiecrat train and its excusers

Glenn Greenwald's  and Matt Stoller's embrace of Ron Paul can't be separated from their multi-year campaign against Barack Obama. Here's Stoller in 2008 fabricating a position for then candidate Obama and wagging his finger (by citing Krugman!):
Obama admires Reagan because he agrees with Reagan's basic frame that the 1960s and 1970s were full of 'excesses' and that government had grown large and unaccountable. [..] It is extremely disturbing to hear, not that Obama admires Reagan, but why he does so.  Reagan was not a sunny optimist pushing dynamic entrepreneurship, but a savvy politician using a civil rights backlash to catapult conservatives to power [OpenLeft January 2008]
 Of course that was all made up, but now Stoller is perfectly happy to tell us:
But then, when considering questions about Ron Paul, you have to ask yourself whether you prefer a libertarian who will tell you upfront about his opposition to civil rights statutes, or authoritarian Democratic leaders who will expand healthcare to children and then aggressively enforce a racist war on drugs and shield multi-trillion dollar transactions from public scrutiny.
If anyone is a "saavy politician using a civil rights backlash", it's Ron Paul - who revived his political career and raised money telling his numbskull newsletter subscribers that "fleetfooted" black "thugs" were going to steal their meth labs or something.  The only consistency between the two paragraphs from Stoller  is  that Obama is the bad guy. Similarly for Greenwald, who excoriates Obama for having the US military kill armed enemies of the United States but finds nothing to say about Paul's proposal that the US charter mercenary bounty hunters to assassinate anyone the President names as an enemy. Consider Stoller's argument in 2007 when he claimed that Obama was going to lose the primaries.


Obama isn't one of us, and in his political career he has shown himself entirely unequipped to lead in a time of extremism.  It doesn't much matter than he worked as a community organizer in his twenties.  At crunch time, Obama is almost always absent, or even on the other side.[ Open Left September 2007]

"Obama is not one of us"! That's the key. Obama is not part of the little clique of "progressives" that Stoller is now trying to drag with him into the Paul camp and, as important, Obama is and has always been a pragmatist while Stoller and Greenwald and many of the "progressives" seem to want some rigid principles - no matter how hypocritical or how often they have to change them. Note that for Greenwald, Obama's use of military force in the Middle East is an unforgiveable violation of principle, but Paul's support for the Afghanistan war and his proposal that the government charter pirates is not a problem. Stoller and Greenwald don't understand that liberalism is about increasing liberty and opportunity and it is supremely pragmatic about how to accomplish those goals.
This was a terrible time, a perilous time in the history of the republic, and a singular feature of Franklin D. Roosevelt was his pragmatic accommodation to whatever needed to be done. If you ever hear a politician say, "I'm going to adhere strictly to principle," then you should take shelter because you know that you are going to suffer. In contrast, Roosevelt was, in his time, the supreme pragmatist. One other thing too, which is of present relevance: he used radio with the same skill that Ronald Reagan uses television. He was a master of that medium of communication.  [JK Gailbraith 1996]
Galbraith, the most prominent liberal economist of the 20th century would have laughed at Stoller's attempts to rule Obama out of the liberal camp based on his unwillingness to engage in bitter end losing battles on "principle". And he would have even more found Stoller's economics laughable.
But Paul, by criticizing American empire explicitly and its financing channels in the form of the Federal Reserve, also enrages liberals by forcing them to acknowledge that their political economy no longer produces liberal ends.
[Stoller]
Apparently, we have to go Bircher to understand the problems of the war economy. Or maybe not, here's Galbraith in 2000
The clearest case is the weapons industry. Given the industry’s command of the Congress and the Pentagon, the defense firms create the demand for weaponry, prescribe the technological development of our defense system, and supply the needed funds—the defense budget. There is no novelty here. This is the military-industrial complex, a characterization that goes safely back to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Any notion of a separation between the public and a private sector—between industry and government—is here plainly ludicrous. Nonetheless, the absorption of public functions by the arms industry is ignored in all everyday and most scholarly economic and political expression.[JKG]

Certainly there's nothing liberal/progressive about the hysteria about the Federal Reserve Bank that Stoller has adopted from Paul. In fact, the Federal Reserve was the only institution that operated correctly during the financial crisis. The regulators under Bush's Executive failed, the Congress was at sea, and the private market that Paul claims doesn't need the Fed drove the world to the very brink of economic collapse. The Fed stepped in, saved the banks - and the FDIC, saved a huge part of the economy by lending directly to industrial firms, and made money for the taxpayers by picking up valuable financial assets that could not otherwise be sold during the panic. In fact, the real lesson of the financial crisis is that we should expand access to the Fed so that our economy is not so dependent on Wall Street. Why shouldn't the commercial paper market, used by corporations and government agencies for short term financing always run as a public service? Maybe we should think of some kinds of financing as public utilities, better run by an elected and accountable government than by huge corporate bureaucracies that keep needing to be bailed out?

I was intending on discussing Stoller's economic ideas in a little more detail, but they are such an unpleasant muddle that I will instead ask readers to read up on real liberal economics. This discussion of Galbraith's attempt to talk Kennedy out of the Vietnam war is interesting and Galbraith's own article on the "fraud" of classical/neo-classical economics is also informative.






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