De Blasio’s rhetoric sounds more leftist, implying a relentless competition between underclass and overclass. But the substance of Warren’s agenda is far more radical. She wants to upend a fundamentally corrupt system, one in which big banks and other interests have coopted the apparatus of government. By contrast, de Blasio implicitly accepts “the system”—which in New York means an economy built around the financial sector and the real estate industry—and wants to mitigate its least desirable effects.Whether or not Scheiber has given us an accurate description of these two politicians I'll leave to others to examine. I found the distinction helpful in understanding where I tend to part ways with many progressives on the left who have been sounding like this depiction of Senator Warren ever since the Great Recession of 2008. Those folks were livid that when President Obama came into office, he didn't use the opportunity to break up the banks and basically destroy the financial sector. Of course his failure to do so was seen by them as proof that he was merely a tool of the 1%.
Or, put differently, de Blasio accepts that today’s rich and powerful will continue to be rich and powerful; he just thinks they should do more to help the rest of us. Warren questions the very legitimacy of their wealth and power.
But right in the middle of Scheiber making his case for Sen. Warren's position, he points this out about Mayor de Blasio's.
New York City would fall into a deep depression if the financial sector shrunk substantially.That was always my position when Congress was discussing financial reform. What the progressives who argued for "taking down the banks" never grappled with was what that would do to the poor and middle class in this country...those who depend on either a wealthy tax base for our social safety net programs or the pensions invested on Wall Street. Regardless of how angry we feel about the greed and corruption that led to the Great Recession, our economy reflects a central truth articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King.
We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.That might sound like language too lofty to apply to the mundane world of the economy. But its true. We cannot take down whole industries (be it the financial sector or health care) without the ripple effects falling most heavily on "the least among us." That is something liberals MUST grapple with...and not let our anger at the abusers overtake our empathy for their victims.
That doesn't mean that we don't hold the abusers accountable. It just means that we do so by keeping in mind the consequences our actions will have on what President Obama has called his North Star - those in the middle class and those striving to get there.
BooMan recently weighed in on all this and comes down in support of the message Scheiber assigns to Sen. Warren because it mobilizes the anger people feel about the government working on behalf of the wealthy.
Where Warren is on the right track is that she is focused on changing the reality and the perception that the government doesn't work for middle class folks, rather than coming up with programs that will redistribute wealth down to the underclass. The reason that this path is preferable to de Blasio's is because we can't garner support for big government programs until we change the people's perception that Washington is not representing their interests.What that argument fails to address is that the method Republicans have used for the last 40 years to convince people that the government doesn't work for them can be summed up in the Southern Strategy. In other words, racism. White working and middle class Americans have consistently been told (sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly) that government programs are a hand-out to be used and abused by "those people," ie, black and brown folks. That doesn't pose a problem for Mayor De Blasio in New York City, but its the core of the battle being waged in what Sarah Palin calls "the real America."
To me, BooMan comes a little too close to acquiescing to the libertarian position that government is bad. His argument sends us on a path of needing to assuage white working/middle class concerns by suggesting that if we simply use government as a way to punish the wealthy, they will eventually join us in taking care of the poor and middle class. Sorry, but that ain't gonna happen.
I agree that as liberals we need to promote a populist message. Here is the one I would suggest. It was delivered exactly six years ago this Monday by the man who is now our President.
“Unity is the great need of the hour.” That’s what Dr. King said. It is the great need of this hour as well, not because it sounds pleasant, not because it makes us feel good, but because it's the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exits in this country.A little different take on that same message played pretty well back in 2004.
I’m not talking about the budget deficit. I’m not talking about the trade deficit. I'm talking about the moral deficit in this country. I’m talking about an empathy deficit, the inability to recognize ourselves in one another, to understand that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper, that in the words of Dr. King, “We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.”