Meeting Bernie Sanders

Bernie_Sanders
Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

The following is the transcript of Rep. Bernie Sanders' question-and-answer period with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan during Tuesday's Financial Services hearing.

SANDERS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

And, Mr. Greenspan, nice to see you again. Mr. Greenspan, I have long been concerned that you are way out of touch with the needs of the middle class and working families of our country, that you see your major function in your position as the need to represent the wealthy and large corporations. And I must tell you that your testimony today only confirms all of my suspicions, and I urge you—and I mean this seriously, because you're an honest person, I think you just don't know what's going on in the real world—and I would urge you come with me to Vermont, meet real people. The country club and the cocktail parties are not real America. The millionaires and billionaires are the exception to the rule.

You talk about an improving economy while we have lost 3 million private sector jobs in the last two years, long-term unemployment is more than tripled, unemployment is higher than it's been since 1994.

We have a $4 trillion national debt, 1.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance, millions of seniors can't afford prescription drugs, middle-class families can't send their kids to college because they don't have the money to do that, bankruptcy cases have increased by a record-breaking 23 percent, business investment is at its lowest level in more than 50 years, CEOs make more than 500 times of what their workers make, the middle class is shrinking, we have the greatest gap between the rich and the poor of any industrialized nation, and this is an economy that is improving. I'd hate to see what would happen if our economy was sinking. Now, today you may not have known this—I suspect that you don't—but you have insulted tens of millions of American workers. You have defended over the years, among other things, the abolition of the minimum wage—one of your policies—and giving huge tax breaks to billionaires. But today you have reached a new low, I think, by suggesting that manufacturing in America doesn't matter. It doesn't matter where the product is produced. We've lost 2 million manufacturing jobs in the last two years alone; 10 percent of our work force. Wal-Mart has replaced General Motors as the major employer in America, paying people starvation wages rather than living wages, and all of that does not matter to you—doesn't matter. If it's produced in China where workers are making 30 cents an hour, or produced in Vermont where workers can make 20 bucks an hour, it doesn't matter. You have told the American people that you support a trade policy which is selling them out, only working for the CEOs who can take our plants to China, Mexico and India. You insulted Mr. Castle. Mr. Castle, a few moments ago—a good Republican—told you that we're seeing not only the decline of manufacturing jobs, but white-collar information technology jobs. Forrester Research says that over the next 15 years, 3.3 million U.S. service industry jobs and $136 billion in wages will move offshore to India, Russia, China and the Philippines. Does any of this matter to you? Do you give one whit of concern for the middle class and working families of this country? That's my question.

GREENSPAN: Congressman, we have the highest standard of living in the world.

SANDERS: No, we do not. You go to Scandinavia, and you will find that people have a much higher standard of living, in terms of education, health care and decent paying jobs. Wrong, Mister.

GREENSPAN: May I answer your question?

SANDERS: You sure may.

GREENSPAN: Thank you. For a major industrial country, we have created the most advanced technologies, the highest standard of living for a country of our size. Our economic growth is crucial to us. The incomes, the purchasing power of our employees, our workers, our people are, by far, more important than what it is we produce. I submit to you—may I?

SANDERS: (inaudible)

GREENSPAN: The major focus of monetary policy is to create an environment in this country which enables capital investment and innovation to advance. We are at the cutting edge of technologies in the world. We are doing an extraordinary job over the years. And people flock to the United States. Our immigration rates are very high. And why? Because they think this is a wonderful country to come to.

SANDERS: That is an incredible answer.

We feel the topic and the tenor of the arguments are even more critical in understanding the slide from the America that Mr. Greenspan describes to the nation that Bernie Sanders knows is now a reality.

So I ask you, Project readers, is Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont a working class hero or a commie socialist pig? Neither. But I like the man. I like his radical middle approach. The poor you will always have among you saith the realist, and mostly, the problems of acute poverty in this country are created by the poor themselves. It is very easy if dedicated to correct thinking to rise above the carp and crap of poverty by application of a few hard-won principles this country's founders once and Bernie Sanders now seems to stand for. The problem however, is that the middle class is shrinking for the very real quite avoidable reasons Sanders continues to pound. Who gets richer off the exporting of American manufacturing jobs? Rich people safe in their posh, talking head adminstrative jobs and leisures, not working class Americans needing a sweat and toil job. Yes, in order to stabilize the planet, other nations must have meaningful and lucrative work as well, but most of these very same nations are the first ones either banning or burning down hapless American restaurants every chance they get, and decrying American imperialism. Social distortion is a double-edged sword. The only winners shouldn't be the strutting suits wearing Ferraris and yachts and highbrows up their noses, while swearing up and down in their golden parachutes they're surely not to blame...

We agree with every word that this self-confessed socialist congressman from Vermont has testified. Now why can't a Republican feel the same pain in his gut about the state of the working poor that this socialist does? When Asia makes all the steel in the world, how can we possibly be safer as a nation, safer from internal and external enemies, than when we made our own steel? our own cars, washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners...?

(Originally published at The Bellicose Augur on July 17, 2003, now a part of the Project Scenewash archives. We feel the topic and the tenor of the arguments are even more critical in understanding the slide from the America that Mr. Greenspan describes to the nation that Bernie Sanders knows is now a reality.)

The Dialectic & The Diabetic

BEGIN ANOTHER SWILL, THIS ONE WON'T LAST FOREVER...

Europe
Is EU Hegemony A Bit Tortured?

KUBHLAI: Forgive me if I seem to be stating the obvious that every cobbler and candlestick maker already knows—but isn't this the typical form in which we daily witness the 'dialectic'?

Far from being a perpetually moving process of change, the construction of a dialectic is normally witnessed as a mechanism by which a certain order, a certain "stasis", is attained and by which a condition of NON-change is secured. In terms of geosiftics (hopefully)—we observe a certain kind of standing wave.

GABRIEL: NOW YOU'RE TALKING!

KUBHLAI: Not only does this dialectic 'happen' to be of the kind which does not produce real change, but moreover, such static dialectics are a fundamental condition of status quo. This is so not merely in the political context I have drawn it from, but is a universal (what else!) feature of reality—dialectic is the root of order, the great preserver...

GABRIEL: Yes, mysteries spun about in cafés in order to impress and get laid, and perhaps one day get taught in a classroom somewhere over the rainbow. Meanwhile , change happens all around in the great hordes of popular culture so despised and ridiculed by the posturing dialecticians who are merely jealous monks when compared to those living the slow shift of incremental revolution pop culture involves. The human condition is a slow train. Indeed those who demonized rock-n-roll (with the sexual revolution & drugs roaring in to complete the triumvirate) in the 1950s have had their prophecies attain full measure. But the pendulum will swing. What is next, the dystopian nightmares of the Mad Max vision, or perhaps Huxley's Brave New World. Which is preferable in the short term, the long? Time is the great equalizer, dialectic the mild tranquilizer, the preserver of that sense of change, but there is no change in the way men think, even when the words they use to express these thoughts bounce about like they do in pop culture. The brain patterns, The ego at war with society. Society at war with the individual ego.

KUBHLAI: I wonder, if when Engels 'saw' the transformation of a dialectic within the process of historical change if he didn't inadvertently put the idealistic cart before the material horse—Suppose that the dialectic was changing DESPITE itself, that its motion was the reluctant result of its overthrow by a force which was motive precisely because it 'lacked' a dialectical opposition? (How, for example, do revolutions succeed if not by surprise?). As Oswald Spengler said—The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.

GABRIEL: Which has been my point all along. Life is not static, but is in constant flux. Only the faces change, and they will change whatever man tries to accomplish. When I flag the term "status quo" as that political force with which I am most profoundly certain truly has meaning, I am not saying a despot should remain in power, nor am I suggesting he SHOULD be assassinated, but what I am saying is that these political activities should have little to do with the extraphile (to borrow Len Bracken's term). An extraphile should rejoice in that freedom FROM politics high and low, and as Nietsche would put, concentrate on himself, his own orbit, leaving the status quo to itself, to rise and fall upon its own sword. Bracken has accused me in the past of "having no discernable politics" and I merely laughed to myself, muttering smalltalk at the wall, knowing exactly what I know and nothing less. To follow up on the point you made above, dialectic is what keeps us all in fear of each other because it tends to require that we LEARN SOMETHING, to learn something in order to FIT IN, and around every corner there is someone ready to pounce, someone ready to TEACH us something, and thus the sword of oppression and hierarchy is drawn. Siftology as we seek to understand it however puts the freedom and the crux of responsibility for all knowledge and all wisdom directly on the individual. I have nothing to teach you and you have nothing to teach me, EXCEPT THAT WHICH WE JOYOUSLY EMBRACE.

Now of course this anarchic approach to everyday life, its revolution and its rewards is no panacea, but it is certainly a healthier path for the independent and intelligent lover of the human expression in all its galaxy of forms. This approach won’t necessarily bring social harmony. More than likely it will not. But this last point is very crucial to the emphasis we wish to place on liberty, making a distinction between the pie-eyed irrelevant Marxist and the quarrels of real praxis. Classicism itself is a sad joke, just as athleticism can be for those not biologically inclined. We might use Steven Hawking for all his shitty arrogance and famegrubbing, intellectual dishonesty or not, as an extreme example of this rather simple axiom. As individuals among many we are each at different points on the parallel lines of infinite possibility. As a individual struggling with the finite self, we reach those different points at different times and circumstances. The matrix of possibilities in terms of the universal defies any slogan that doesn't sound cliched or too simplistic, and rebuts any complicated tome past the first constricting idea. Hence, the stabilizing effect of a dialectic.

Len Bracken, with his dancing theme firmly in praxis, has surely arrived at something, for him, for now, but those factors are neither universal nor forever. I mean, the world is full of dancers, of poets, of dockworkers, of nurses, of guitar heroes, of drunks, of thin men, of men named Jones, but none of this is news to the innocent who love life without a theory, love life and live life armed with nothing more than inertia and some dull patchwork of conflicting ideals and myths, and until they try to PREACH that dull patchwork, insist it upon others heaping ridicule upon dissenters, I see nothing to criticize. The problem is with blanket spokesmen, piss-eyed preachers, hireling lobbyists, sky's the limit liars, and fool-proof con artists who paint with passionate wind the fear of all ages upon us, corrupting the spines of our children, none who have solved the riddle but the few who quietly seek to live the truely gallant life, as Len Bracken would wish upon himself and a few choice others we might presume.

Life is trickier than mere word games. The harder we judge we harder we fall. Relativity is in the blood. All else is one foot up, one foot down.

KUBHLAI: Of course this idea wot I'm 'avin' doesn't concord with the ancient Greek conception of dialectics very well either—in so far as I understand it; if one accepted that 'thesis' 'antithesis' and 'synthesis' were the three conditions in a dialectical movement, then which of those three corresponds to the condition in which a stability is attained between the two poles of a dialectic which is specifically NOT synthesized, and is possible only because it isn't? The Greeks were always looking for perfection, yet the dialectic—as an oscillating uncertainty within perception, perspective and worldview—is everything 'except' perfection. I suspect Crash might know of something within aesthetics theory which deals with this oscillation and ambiguity?

Well just because a sphere may float, bounce and roll within a hypothetical situation, doesn't mean man in his lust for compelling harmony, can sever the sphere in half and expect the same behavior or synthesis of the two halves to be maintained. It all begins to seem painfully embarrassing to me that this is obvious. Is it just a lack of sleep or what? Am I the last person to figure this out? The whole thing falls neatly into place with my daoist predilections. Take a martial art such as T'ai CHi or AiKiDo—powerful motion is induced by withdrawing the opposition which would prevent it—this is the key to everything.

The universe is 99.999999x% stagnation caused by the tension of balanced forces. The energy in a grain of salt is enough to blow all of Europe off the map but it is reduced to a grain of salt by the mindless battle within it—a battle of being and nonbeing. Everything must turn on its head—it is not what is but what is not which really shapes the world, or rather it is not money which makes the world go round but the uncertainty of having any. Uncertainty is the ether (I think. Ether it is or it ain’t). Ah hail the creative essence of existentialism nestling in the armlock of wrestlers like a sleeping babe...

Needless to say—what you are saying in that other Bracken/Thy post re supplanting the will to power with the will to purpose could cuddle up in there rather comfortably too. I'll think into that more deeply anon. And what was it that Nietzsche said about "vertigo"? (or was that Hitchcock?)

GABRIEL: Keep on drilling dude. Andre Breton would approve. Our polar caps are melting. Resistence is futile. Now if we can just storm past the waterfalls and the steam baths to complete the circuit, perhaps we shall find a beginning from which to initiate this discussion as to what ails us, why, and what it is we are supposed to do about it.

Hints On Intellectual Honesty

Gabriel Thy
Gabriel Thy
SWORG SWILL LISTSERV | June 21, 1999

Crash writes: I'm glad that you are so clear on your political position.

Kube writes: This was a joke right? Here are a few clearer generalisations.
1. that everyone is and should be out for themselves (individualism)
2. that everyone is mutually interdependent and only equity (of opportunity to develop what you are) can ultimately deliver what anyone needs (communism, self-interest). That is, the nurturing of the parts is the nurturing of the whole.
3. that such an interdependent and complex system can only work on the basis of control by the people (anarchism, efficiency.)
4. that the task is immense and cannot be perfected overnight (revolution, pragmatism) (also see my position on violence)
5. that human relations are inseparable from material conditions (sociology, biology)
6. that all that is springs from material conditions (materialism, religion)
7. there are loads more, but the above will do to fill in most of the traditional boxes.

Crash writes...
Because I'm still working on my position and feel that I'm constantly evolving, I'm not willing to throw my hat into the standard groups (situs, anarchists, marxists, whatever).

Kube writes...
Well I've been TRYING to throw in my lot with some kind of standard group or other for longer than I can remember, for the simple reason that I felt it necessary to organize and coordinate in order to have a benign effect upon a hostile social order. But the trouble with all these groups is simply that they're all fucking wrong.

And writes...
This is not to say that I disagree with Situationism (I want to live in situations!), Anarchism (I want to be free!) or Marxism (we must work together!), but as doctrines they fail to ensure the enlightenment of their own members let alone society at large, and “therefore” one must induct that as worldviews they are not necessarily wrong, but they are certainly lacking. My opinion is that they all lack much the same thing—a sufficient comprehension of relationship and its role in the creative process (that is, in its creation of the future).

And writes...
Anarchists simply refuse to acknowledge the dynamic expansive essence of human nature—they fall back onto small fragmented self-contained worlds (two hippies in a tent on an allotment); the Situationists fell into the pomo Sargasso of 'going with the flow', everything is permissible and utopia will build itself out of nothing at all; the Marxists developed dialectics—but only to the size of a blastocyst, then stopped. All those libraries of paper, all those pyramids of ponderings on what should be done in Somalia, Timbuktu, Peking when the truth is that their members couldn’t collectively make a chicken casserole out of a casserole and a chicken.

And writes...
Inevitably therefore, the basis of action, or of any cultural or political system which is its objective, must be individualism. In order for other people to be what you want them to be (whether you imagine this to be "sharing", "obedient", "enlightened", "beautiful" or whatever) you must create the conditions for them to make this of themselves. A world held in the shape you want it to be only by your own expenditure of energy is a world in which you suffer eternal hunger, toil, conflict, frustration and boredom. In other words, it's a paradox.

And writes...
This is the world we live in (reality on the ground, as Gabriel puts it).

And writes...
Even the desire to control others "for their own good" leads to a contempt for others which does not desire "their own good" any longer—THEY must instead be punished for being the projected object of YOUR own dissatisfaction.

This Inconvenient Reality

Originally published on June 20, 1999
[by a member of the anachronistic SWORG metabolism]

Well, I've been trying to throw in my lot with some kind of standard group or other for longer than I can remember, for the simple reason that I felt it necessary to organize and coordinate in order to have a benign effect upon a hostile social order. But the trouble with all these groups is simply that they're all fucking wrong. This is not to say that I disagree with situationism (I want to live in situations!), anarchism (I want to be free!) or marxism (we must work together!), but as doctrines they fail to ensure the enlightenment of their own members, let alone society at large, and “therefore” one must induct that as worldviews they are not necessarily wrong, but they are certainly lacking.

My opinion is that they all lack much the same thing—a sufficient comprehension of relationship and its role in the creative process (that is, in its creation of the future). Anarchists simply refuse to acknowledge the dynamic expansive essence of human nature—they fall back onto small fragmented self-contained worlds (two hippies in a tent on an allotment); the situationists fell into the pomo Sargasso of 'going with the flow', everything is permissible and utopia will build itself out of nothing at all ; the marxists developed dialectics—but only to the size of a blastocyst, then stopped. All those libraries of paper, all those pyramids of ponderings on what should be done in Somalia, Timbuktu, Peking when the truth is that their members couldn’t collectively make a chicken casserole out of a casserole and a chicken.

Kubhlai

Disconnecting Law And Order

Originally published January 24, 1999 on the SWORG SWILL
[an exchange on anachronistic metabolism]

Law, Order, Crisis
Law, Order, Crisis

Of course the relative absence of laws and law-enforcers does not mean the absence of control or of social order. But when we speak of the inevitability of hierarchy, or of law, we have to remember that neither hierarchy nor law can historically be shown to bear much relationship to social harmony and order.

Crash responds—true there was not the organized law forces in the Wild West of America's infancy—but law was still enforced by those who were able to divvy up the cash to hire people to eliminate those that were a threat to their economic concerns—bounty hunters, less official hunters of humans, and Texas Rangers and sheriffs (often recruited from the forces of the outlaws themselves) were used to eliminate those outside the officially sanctioned economic activities—not to mention the brutal elimination of Native Americans and Mexicans—I can't weigh in on Britain's 18th and 19th centuries, but America’s was a time of brutal conquest, murder to eliminate those who were in the way, and suppression of the other—not exactly what I would call a more peaceful golden age—I'm kind of surprised that you would try to mythologize a grand golden past—this is a hackneyed old trick of the rank conservatives in our country who attempt to use code words from the past to make us regress and repress.

Kubhlai retorts—Well that's not exactly what I said. During the two centuries of the Industrial Revolution our society was both stable AND miserable without an organized police force or mountains of laws. The fact that it was miserable not golden makes the fact that it was remarkably stable all the more fascinating (and sad).

In the urban nineteenth century and in the rural centuries beforehand there was no universal or permanent police force, and immensely fewer laws or means of detecting trasngressions of them or of dealing with them from central government. There WAS social control, especially that which derived economically via aristocratic estates, and through the Church (which in effect was the precursor of the mass media since it controlled almost all information). Nevertheless, neither of these institutions had much need or inclination to interfere in much of the private lives of the people. In rural areas, way back into medieval times (especially prior to the normans) the economic interactions which held order together had even less to do with hierarchy being based almost exclusively on the exchange of goods and labour, not capital. Basically you grew potatoes and chickens and swapped them for apples and piglets. If the village didn't approve of someones goings on they would be ostracized—since they had no where to go, they would avoid pissing everyone off. (and no doubt if they were total nutters they would quietly disappear). The main controlling force was that each person was tied into the land they farmed, their village, extended family and manor and had nowhere else to go. There is a hierarchic relation in this but not a complex one with fulltime agents of control.

Language also played a part—the aristocrats spoke french, later german. This ensured that the two differing lifestyles intersected little, and each must have had little notion of what it was like to be other than they were—but this isn't either hierarchy or law either, though it constrained social expectations and ensured that everyone had their place (a double-edged sword from a modern-values point of view, but harmony and stability-engendering none the less.) My only point is that centralized hierarchy and canons of Law are not essential for there to be a society that functions. I am not of the opinion that the absence of police and law was sufficient in order to call that earlier age "golden" or that the mere revoking of all law and the abolition of the police would deliver a better society overnight now. We cannot go BACK to that non-hierarchical non-centralized society, but it does suggest that we can go FORWARD to another one. It is obvious though that the police and the law exist today for a reason. It implies that there is less self-control in society now than there used to be, ie that its order has been disrupted by the state and that brute force now needs to be visibly deployed to reinforce its checks and control. This is my point really, that rather than "Law & Order" going together like "milk and honey" or "bread and butter" they are actually opposites, in that where you have a harmonious ORDER you have no need of LAW and its enforcers.

Such order has rarely been achieved in any near-permanent forms (although the longevity of chinese civilization is an example perhaps), because societies always had exploiters, and the existence of exploiters reflected the fact that technology could not prevent shortages. This must have been a major factor in the bloody history of your wild west. We now have more than adequate technology to eliminate shortage, yet those in power see this very fact as a threat to their exalted position as exploiters. Shortages are artificially created, new ones invented. Technology is bent to control instead of to construction and consequently we have a small number of people with small minds wielding big weapons. This is our crisis.

Shit! Didn't mean to sound like a redneck conservative.

Shocked...

I write: Wow! What a crock of belly-warming bread pudding. K's rendition of an authoritarian-shy but miserable nevertheless past is rather tortured, especially for him, my esteemed English friend who usually honors us with his piercing profundity. The gist of his aurgument however is sound. We live in an age where but for certain spirits of "cruel and unusual" penchants for dangerous exploitation now scattered across the globe in critical places, the species might very well be capable of snatching a "better, more improved" civilization from the brink of the devastating collapse and unreparable destruction we all foresee and fear with unspeakable loathing.

Laws and authority, however, exist from the beginning of time. The arrangements of molecules and the sciences of existence defy our attempt to reject conformity at the basic levels, while seeking to worship unbridled chaos and disunity. Nature, beastly power, religion, legislation, peer pressure, transcendentalism. All have taken a riveting shot at taming or at least shepherding the most basic instincts of earth itself, and this creature called mankind. A mutually assured misery tends to thwart all but the most ambitious of spirits in a time and location of widespread lethargy. Corrupted earth. Corrupted earthlings. Yet, despite our observations of (apparent) corruption, an astute prejudicial order does exist. However, it is our limited humanity's hunger and thirst to attain the incorruptable, the perfect, the eternal, the blissful, which always runs this discussion aground. This unfathomable unquenchable hunger and thirst brings us feast. It also brings us famine. Such is the nature of aspiration when in conflict with other realities on the ground. Frankly, I don't think we will solve this puzzle while wordsmithing over a free-range pizza with a cherrypicker mentality.

In a philosophy clamouring for the participation of all, it will not be the masses, but the brutal acts or two or three ringleaders who determine with amassed fealty our collective fates. Such, it has always been. Unfortunately, these two or three will control and marshal the weapons of surprise and power in nearly all its wicked and wonderful forms. In deed. In spirit. Such as it's always been.

GT

"the battleground where art and politics beat each other up, and few are they who seem the wiser…"

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