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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez capitalism Ilhan Omar Markets politics

Deal With It: On Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And ‘Irredeemable’ Capitalism

"Moderate is not a stance."

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made headlines over the weekend, and that’s not exactly surprising. After all, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes headlines every, single day.

But on Saturday, the firebrand 29-year-old freshman congresswoman raised even more eyebrows than usual with comments delivered at South by Southwest in Austin, where she drew a larger crowd than presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Howard Schultz.

In characteristically unapologetic fashion, Ocasio-Cortez declared capitalism  “irredeemable”, a contention that caused conservative pundits, old white men and moderate Democrats alike to simultaneously blow a gasket.

“Capitalism is an ideology of capital – the most important thing is the concentration of capital and to seek and maximize profit”, she said, adding that because this endless quest to improve the bottom line often comes at the expense of people and the environment “capitalism is irredeemable”.

 

For moderate Democrats, this comes at an inopportune time. Rather than embrace the superstar status of Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, moderate Democrats have instead adopted what amounts to a containment strategy. The response to Omar’s contention that the pro-Israel lobby is buying influence on Capitol Hill is indicative of that strategy. Long story short, it won’t work. The effort to silence Omar reeks of desperation and is an absurdly transparent gambit to suppress debate about a sensitive issue. Importantly, it also amounts to party leaders hitting the mute button on a Muslim woman of faith, something Democrats should avoid doing because i) it’s racist, which doesn’t exactly line up well with the party’s values, and ii) it plays right into the hands of Donald Trump, who has spent the last four years whipping the American public into an Islamophobic frenzy.

That’s relevant here because it’s the same strategy Democratic party leaders have adopted when it comes to Ocasio-Cortez’s views on the economy and the environment.

Critically, if you’re a Democrat, you don’t have to agree with Ocasio-Cortez, Omar and Tlaib to know that trying to silence superstars will invariably backfire. Just ask Republicans. During the GOP primary, GOP’ers (including, by the way, Lindsey Graham) bent over backwards to try and distance themselves from Trump’s radical campaign bombast and look how that turned out for the party. Spoiler alert: Trump became president and folks like Graham (who once said, on national television, that the “best way to make America great again is to tell Donald Trump to go to hell”) have become shameless sycophants.

In any event, to say Ocasio-Cortez remains undeterred in her quest to change the way America thinks about wealth distribution and to usher in a veritable climate revolution would be an understatement.

During her comments at South by Southwest, she lambasted centrist politics in devastatingly pointed terms. Have a listen:

 

Here it is again:

Moderate is not a stance. It’s just an attitude towards life of, like, ‘meh,’. We’ve become so cynical, that we view ‘meh,’ or ‘eh’ — we view cynicism as an intellectually superior attitude, and we view ambition as youthful naivete when … the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of visions.

The ‘meh’ is worshipped now. For what?

Sorry, centrists/moderates, but the chances of drowning out that kind of energy – that kind of charisma and unabashed authenticity – with appeals to tradition and decorum are zero.

What’s more, Ocasio-Cortez is unequivocally correct about capitalism. The irony (and egregious hypocrisy) inherent in simultaneously bemoaning wealth inequality and defending the system that nurtures and facilitates it, is almost unfathomable. But you’ll see that from pundits and commentators of all stripes. In fact, I’d wager you’ve read something, somewhere over the past 24 hours that embodies that hypocrisy.

Trump ran on a platform that promised to resurrect the American middle class, and yet his signature policy achievement is passing a tax cut for the wealthy and corporations, the benefits of which unequivocally accrued not to the middle class, not to working families, not to those who need it, but to the rich. That should come as no surprise. After all, Trump is rich and his cabinet is chock-full of millionaires and, in some cases, billionaires.

The bottom line is that Trump voters are voting against their own self-interest. We’ve been over this in these pages a hundred times if we’ve been over it once.

Inequality in pictures and more on how the wealthy have benefited under Trump

Dear America: Here’s What Egregious Wealth And Income Inequality Looks Like

Look! Egregious Inequality In America

Trump Trolls America: ‘I’m Strongly’ Considering $100 Billion Capital Gains Break For The Rich

In Brazen Move, Trump Considers $100 Billion Tax Cut For The Wealthy – Without Congressional Approval

And yet when you look out across Twitter this weekend and if you can stomach Fox News for a few minutes, what you’ll find are references to Trump’s State of the Union address, where he decried socialism and championed capitalism.

That, despite the fact that wealth inequality continues to grow thanks in part to his policies and despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of those who came out to vote for Trump in droves in 2016 are most assuredly “labor”, not “capital”. Recall the following excerpts from “It Is The Eleventh Hour For White American Males“, via Notes From Disgraceland (here on Twitter):

It is the eleventh hour for white American males. A collateral damage of capitalism’s global triumph, beaten in just about any game that matters, even the ones they invented, they are joining the ranks of excess population facing a threat of irreversible social displacement and marginalization. Tired of self-abuse, anesthetized by drugs and alcohol, angry and armed with guns, but otherwise powerless, American white men reside in the center of the disillusioned perspective, in desperate search for conversion, looking for a savior who will restore their lost dignity and self-respect, and reclaim, on their behalf, what had always been considered rightfully theirs, the basic white male privilege.

In that quest they have fallen victims to predatory seduction of anarcho-capitalists and global kleptocrats. These merchants of regressive nostalgia and self-proclaimed guardians of traditional values, who celebrate the idea of privatized utopias of gated communities, do not really need white male precariat as such, but are ready to offer them whatever leftovers they don’t need, in exchange for an exclusive right to manage their rage capital and for their voice in the ballot box. And white American males will take it and will fall under the spell of magical thinking of the Third-World-esque political pornographers just because, stripped of all other alternatives, male precariat has found itself lost in the blind alley of the disillusioned perspective.

Those excerpts, published here months ago, serve as the perfect setup for Ocasio-Cortez’s grand finale at South by Southwest, which came in response to a surprise celebrity question from Bill Nye, who essentially asked how we can deal with older white men who may feel threatened by a potential sea change in American society. Here is her answer:

 

And with that, we’ll leave you with one more excerpt from a recent piece that appeared first on Notes From Disgraceland and later here. To wit, from “We Need To Learn To Speak Again“:

To begin to learn how to speak again, and to grasp the inadequacy of the existing language (the only one we know at the moment), one has to start speaking about the unspeakable, about the topics where the commodified language of capitalism is mute. We need to escape into the blind alleys of capitalism, the breaking points of the system the five systemic disorders, the five horsemen of apocalypse, reside [5]: Stagnation, Redistribution, Plundering of the public domain, Technology and commodification of labor, and Corruption.

These are the topics that define the discourse of change. They address the central points of self-intoxication, the Achilles heels of capitalism. The five systemic disorders expose the inner contradictions, the paradoxicality of the system; they are the portals of change. Any political figure whose platform is defined by these topics deserves our attention. All others are impostors.

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27 comments on “Deal With It: On Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And ‘Irredeemable’ Capitalism

  1. You go, girl.

  2. “What’s more, Ocasio-Cortez is unequivocally correct about capitalism. The irony (and egregious hypocrisy) inherent in simultaneously bemoaning wealth inequality and defending the system that nurtures and facilitates it, is almost unfathomable.”

    Ut-oh H, the idiots are going to start calling you a socialist! While those of us who haven’t been broken by the psychological warfare of the alt right machine understand that you are simply a pragmatist.

    I will say, I agree and disagree with her statement about capitalism. She is correct about our current iteration of capitalism which I call Robber Barron Capitalism. However, capital is inherently agnostic and is merely a reflection of the human institutions that wield it.

    • Lance Manly

      I liked the Ritholtz quote from Macro Voices last week

      “There was a fantastic Bloomberg article earlier this week about this new carve-out in the 2017
      tax reform bill that gives people on Wall Street special incentives and tax benefits to buy private
      jets. I mean, if you want to know why people today, why the millennials today and the young
      people today are enamored of socialism, look no further than this sort of bull shit.

      This is just a complete corruption of capitalism as Adam Smith envisioned it. It’s corrupting, it’s
      corrosive. Of course young people look at it and say, wait a minute, I don’t have health care, I
      can’t afford to buy a house, but these guys are getting subsidized private jets. F.U. I’m going to
      join the Socialist Party.”

  3. Getting voters to vote against their own interests is par for the course in US politics. Keep your population dumb, scared, and numb enough and they don’t even realize it. Ala Trump.

    Indeed she is correct on her views about capitalism. While it’s been great in providing diversity in products/services, with a diverse range of enterprises filling all niches of the economy, and even instilling ‘hope’ of a better future. But the whole premise of ‘you will be successful if you work hard’ falls apart when you consider the legion of people scraping the poverty line while working 3 different jobs. It is a system designed to funnel wealth to the top, and that wealth corrupts political ideals, which goes to the point of people voting against your own interests.

    It literally cannot go on forever. The logical conclusion to this is suppression of rights, consolidation of power, and ultimately revolution. At which stage are we currently, I wonder.

    • I completely agree. And as AOC talks about changing the conversation, the first place to start is with the idea that anything besides pure capitalism is socialism. Not true.
      Capitalism is the best system because of the freedoms it offers. But it is not perfect, and there are those who fall through the cracks and not by their own choosing necessarily. It’s a false assumption.

      If we proceed intelligently. recognizing that we are a society and in this together, there are plenty of resources to go around and still allow for the accumulation of Capital to produce rich success stories.

  4. AOC is an inevitable result, in a system that is realizing it’s primary ideological tenant ,which is “one person on e vote” is about to turn the tables in a direction that does not favor the existing powers . This structure guided by Capitalist ideology has many beneficiaries including most of us on this website and can be brought into panic mode by the likes of anyone like AOC.
    This phenomenon partially explains Trump and his pseudo base . The coming years will tell the tale on how a Democracy survives or falters.

  5. Curt Tyner

    She’s correct except for the fact this runaway piece of debt sht is not capitalism and anybody paying the slightest bit of attention knows it. We have some capitalism, some socialism (better know as the commons), some fascism (lots actually) and of course Central Bank fukery (my new term for stealing from the country). Managed everything, with huge boom built-up’s to massive crashes that just keep making our wealthier deadbeats happy as the losses are publicized and of course the profits are privatized.

    The USA subsidizes everything from a few crumbs for citizens right on the edge of disaster to fat and happy corporations who pay 0 as in zero in taxes and better yet claim millions in returns after making record profits. Yep, a pretty good set-up. Blow it all up so banks etc. can swoop in and buy all the labor, sweat, time, energy and wealth used to make a living for peanuts. That is today’s capitalism. How’s that working for you.

  6. Quovadiszero

    The problem goes much deeper than ‘capitalism”…..that is the ‘ideology’ she wants to rally the ‘have not’s’ and the ‘never will haves’. against. Just keep telling folks how bad their lot in life is.

    Capitalism is inequality, its very nature compells it so, Also the most interesting point, most do NOT want to rid the country of it, they believe that would eliminate their hopes of achieving that for themselves. Illusions perhaps, but ingrained ones.

    AOC is another politician spoutng rhetoric without a viablle solution to replace it. The lets tear down before we know what to rebuild it with philosophy. Of course citing the Russsian and Chinese examples as failures would be too easy. Those leaderships want ‘state mandated capitalism’ by their friends and cronies, letting the citizens fight over the scraps thinikng they are materialistically happy.

    Dangerous when politicians get positive ‘rally feedback’ at their events, so much so, that they belive their own bullshitt, keep repeating it to get wild audience response, and keep doing it like a mantra.

    Trump, as you state, robs them in plain sight, the very people he claims to be fighting for. He will tell them anything, do anything, to be re-elected. A phenomenon I cannot begin to explain.

    It goes deeper, into the very core of Americans. I think it all began when the hippies became bankers and politicians, fueled by an unpopular war in Viet Nam, that began the erosion of society. Kent State was another turning point, tossing a few rocks in America and you will be shot.

    The Government’s lies have become destructive to our very belief sysytem of what good citizens are supposed to be and want believe in, removing the common values that. held up the foundation. So now the cracks have become wide chasms no one wants to build bridge across.

    It really all boils down to absolutely NO TRUST.

  7. Harvey Darrow Cotton

    Forgive the rant coming in 3,2,1…

    Free market capitalism is so irredeemable that nobody bothers to do it. The state is needed to create the rules of the market, enforce its contracts, and create and regulate the currency it uses. It redistributes funds through taxation and spending. It awards contracts for public services and infrastructure. It is needed to decide what to do with the winners in each sector that would gain the heft and scale to devour competition and achieve monopoly.

    These are bare-ass mininums that still call for massive political intrusions into the functions of markets. Beyond that, in the American context, there are countless public subsidies and rents given to niche groups that benefit them a great deal and hurt everybody else a tiny little bit, such as sugar tariffs or corn subsidies. There is corporate welfare for politically connected donors, and pork and largesse in the form of public services like for defense contractors, private prison companies, and other systemic complexes.

    Then there is public education to socialize and educate the workforce, and a social welfare system to help the elderly, infirm, unemployed, poor, and victims of capitalism’s excesses so that the numerically superior lower classes accept the wealth and power of the upper class in a “legitimate democracy.”

    Now, after the accretion of every greater wealth and political power in service of acquiring yet more wealth and political power, we have come to the end of the usefulness of late-stage capitalism. Life and death medical decisions cannot be priced the same way sneakers or TVs can. Wages can no longer be suppressed in order to benefit bondholders or corporate officers. Higher education cannot be the preserve of the elite in a country with diminishing social mobility. Police have to serve the entire community, and not just propertied nterests. If we, like every society, will have a mixed economy, why not have one that benefits the ‘demos’ more.

  8. Capitalism is a global system and as a global system the very things people in the US get upset about are the things that are working for the, er “masses”. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/measuringpoverty#1

    As Adam Smith and Karl Marx detailed so long ago, the system is one of ever elaborating divisions of labour. The US is suffering from this as others gain from it. This is a matter to a very large degree of how it works, not how it doesn’t work.

    Somehow Yanks have got the idea that the world owes them a living. It doesn’t. Thinking smarter is the only way things will get better in the rust belt and anywhere else that’s been outcompeted by others. https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/07/economy/future-of-manufacturing-youngstown/index.html is an example of people responding to these pressures.

    Multilateral solutions are the only ones that really count in the long run as they cohere with elaborating divisions of labour and as Marx argued in 1847 (!!!) attempts at throwing up barriers to keep more efficient producers out are doomed to fail. Trump is the Smoot, or the Hawley, of our times – and as Marx (again) sneered in the 18th Brumaire, “first time as tragedy, second as farce”.

    The US is a corrupt country, maybe not as corrupt as Russia or China, but pretty corrupt! If you think that’s capitalism, think again! Deal with that!

    People like “AOC” should be urged to read the relevant bits of Marx’s preface to the Critique, all two pages of it, repeatedly until they understand it, then pull their heads in and figure out how to make real progress toward socialism.

    Is your unworthy correspondent disgusted? He is.

    • monkfelonious

      You actually think that she hasn’t read Marx?

    • People should read Adam Smith and I mean the whole book not just the parts trotted out by the GOP. He describes the damage to society resulting from unrestrained capitalism and the need for government regulation to protect society from the worst excesses. (I dare you to read it cover to cover as it is very tedious like most old books written prior to easy editing by word processor)

  9. Anonymous

    Our country has one party, the GOP, which has always been the party of wealth and is propped up by several fringe groups promoting their own self interests, and the Democratic party, also with varied interests, that preaches a great game (“YES WE CAN”) but offers no solutions beyond, and actually perpetuates, the status quo. Money now corrupts the best intentions in government.

    People forget (I am being kind) that capitalism, socialism, and communism are types of economies. They are not types of governance. Also note the distinction between socialism and communism, they are two different animals. The constitution of the USSR was no less magnificent, entrenched in undeniable rights and protections for its citizens, than our own but it was perverted by its government of one party rule.

    I welcome Ms. Ocasio-Cortez on the political scene. We have come a long way from the quaint, robber barons of the late 1890’s and early 20th century. We now have a system that many have named Vampire Capitalism. This capitalism, in its quest for an even greater accumulation of wealth, has actually placed our very existence and planet in peril.

  10. It has been said that both Capitalism and Democracy are imperfect and largely flawed systems…only that they are better than all the rest! Trump is neither a legitimate capitalist (or free trader) nor a democrat (he only admires autocratic, kleptocratic dictators) by nature and,hopefully an aberration, not a sign of the pending demise of America, like great empires of the past disintegrated.

  11. First clip: meh. Second Clip: I like the inspirational content. First time to listen to her and I like her, though I more than likely strongly oppose her core platform if it is socialist, But I like her. Obviously a staged question from the Science Guy.

    DO NOT CONTAIN. I am the middle, I am the target of her and Bill’s pity; she is not going to make me vote for Trump! She demonstrates she is at least thinking things through.

    Bill Nye I once really liked that guy a lot, not anymore, this staging and politicking washed away all of my respect for him. What a douche. You do not need to invoke the pity of the youth toward old white guys, you jack ass manipulating mfer! Alot of us have gone out kicked ass and taken names in our lifetimes, jerk!

  12. She is far better than trump but I don’t think she can beat him.

    • I am wondering why the icon for my comment above is not my normal icon — and I have not received a notice there have been comments added to this thread; I just happened to come back to read again. I hope when I submit this new comment I see my nice gray icon again. 🤓
      (I don’t want to risk being suspect as that ‘other anonymous’)

  13. monkfelonious

    I’m glad that the author of this site seems to be getting traction. More commenting. Maybe soon (?) we can all be like the fossils on any site. I am curious why he left SA, where he was a brief rock star.

    • NORTHWEST

      Left SA? Something about being tired of the low brow clientele? Or was it to monetize his efforts, which are remarkable and meritorious, via establishing this site? Man needs to get paid. Got to love that Free Market Capitalism?

  14. Anonymous

    I feel fairly confident that there were costs borne by the Native Americans when the Puritans and their immigrant horde-wave arrived in America. Not a lot of sympathy for old white guys not wanting to pay costs for others. As I learned a long time ago, the opposite of fear is love. That’s why it’s doubly-ridiculous for these so-called Christians to act this way.
    The SA

      • Anonymous

        Billy,
        I hope I didn’t touch a nerve. The “immigrant horde-wave” was a tounge-in-cheek reference to how the President has described the people at the Southern border legally seeking asylum.The “old white guys” was a reference to how Bill Nye phrased his question about such folks not wanting to pay for things. Can one be racist against themselves? Hmm, I am not that old anyways. If I am bigoted, then I stand in the good company of Jesus who warned against hypocrites and used a parable about a good Samaritan to show that we should love our neighbors whom he included as everyone especially our enemies and the “other”.
        The Smart Anonymous

        • The president is a fear mongering idiot. If we are going to use old white guys as our excuse for losing the debate or as a convenient straw man; we have nothing of merit to offer. We lose the debate. Again.

          • Anonymous

            I don’t think they are the excuse or the strawman. But, overcoming their fears may be key to achieve progress. You may have noticed the Congress is predominantly old white guys and so are their donors.

  15. Anonymous

    Just saying – that when the stock option millionaires from the tech startups, acknowledge, that they won a lottery ticket… and for the most part it wasn’t their intelligence, and they are also willing to share… they when are getting somewhere, however I think they are just going to hide saying that it is the white men on Wall Street that are the demons.

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