For numerous reasons I have never liked golf. My apologies to those of you who see something in it besides a bunch of old guys hacking away at $4 balls with $500 clubs. Maybe the time outside can be a salve for a stressed-out businessman. Maybe there’s something to it after all. But it’s a ridiculous game played by goofy looking people in lime green pants, weird shoes and weird hats. Just look at the smirking grifter in the photo.
Worse, it’s a rigged game. All sorts of handicapping schemes give free points to lousy players. And usually the lousy players get their free points, well, because that’s what gentlemen deserve out on the links.
Sort of like Capitalism.
Capitalists get their profits from the sweat and ingenuity of people who work for them — and then pocket the cash. Over time, as a class, Capitalists become wealthier and wealthier, while over time workers struggle to keep the lights on. Labor and business have always played an adversarial game, and the system has always been rigged in favor of business.
Because, in the language of golf, the duffers get all the handicaps.
Two points for union-busting. Two points for right-to-work laws. Two points for anti-union legislation. Two points for keeping the minimum wage below survival wages. Two points for saddling working people with taxes while the super-rich get tax shelters. Ten points for making sure members of Congress are all millionaires. Five points for a stacked Supreme Court. Five points for making housing, education, and medical costs unbearably high. Ten points for receiving free oil, mineral, and gas drilling rights on public land. Ten points for producing goods and saddling the public with the resulting remediation costs and Superfund cleanups. Five points for preventing municipalities from competing with monopolies by offering citizens broadband services. A hundred points for government bailouts. Twenty points for R&D grants. Fifty points for bringing a business to the state. A hundred points for a decade free of paying taxes on that business. Fifty points for the state picking up the tab for worker training. Five hundred points for Citizens United. And so on.
And still — with all these corporate giveaways — they whine that they can’t compete.
But when you have every advantage and you still can’t win, there’s something wrong with the game.
19th century Socialists, specifically Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, thought they were living in the End Times of Capitalism — a system they saw rapidly approaching the limits of human and natural exploitation. It would only be a matter of years, they thought, before its injustices, contradictions and cyclical crises would lead workers in European democracies to reject and replace the system with Socialism.
These old Socialists never anticipated our hyper-predatory 21st Century Capitalism with its even more obscene levels of income inequality, and they never thought for a second that feudal states like China or Russia could be shoe-horned into their model of European political evolution. In Russia, the Narodniks thought they could adapt Marxism, but Marx himself had doubts. After Marx’s death in 1883, Engels corresponded with Russian revolutionaries like Plekhanov. But Engels died in 1895, a generation before the Bolsheviks came to power.
The authoritarian states that arose out of Communism were neither foreseen nor advocated by Marx or Engels. But the two “Marxists” did anticipate Capitalist globalism, chronic market manipulation, the necessity of government bailouts, monopolies, privatization of public resources, and the rise of authoritarianism — all to sustain a system that, in the long run, is unsustainable.
The 2016 election was many things. On the one hand it was a last gasp of American White Privilege. And on the other the election was a sweeping rejection of Neoliberalism — a belief that liberal democracy is somehow compatible with robber barons, hedge fund managers, secret trade deals, market manipulation, monopolies, mass incarceration and spying on citizens. Pretty much — Capitalism.
The Republican working class rejected Neoliberalism because it hadn’t been doing much for them lately — especially in Appalachia and the Rust Belt. Instead, they let themselves be duped by an Orange Mussolini who dazzled them with race baiting, Jesus, and a return to coal mines. The Democratic working class was more hopeful that reducing the crushing costs of education and healthcare might keep them afloat. But both the GOP and the DNC were selling a similar bill of goods to similarly duped constituencies.
And even though they gave it one last shot, Democrats could no longer sell the Neoliberal product they’d been hawking for 30 years. In fact, there were so many young Democrats who had lost faith in Capitalism that the DNC had to resort to subterfuge to derail an old Democratic Socialist offering better ideas.
So, for the moment, Advanced Capitalism is still alive under Trump. Just barely.
White Nationalists and Evangelicals may think the Trump administration has finally brought them to the Promised Land. Liberals may think the recent series of vicious Executive Orders are nothing less than the rollback of social progress of the last hundred years. And some may call all this weird nastiness “populism.” But what we are really witnessing is a team of private physicians tending to a rich, geriatric patient who is dying. Mr. Moneybags has brought in a team of doctors and lawyers to save himself and his legacy. Only most, like him, are hacks.
The Trump administration’s unprecedented number of billionaires, financial manipulators, and retired military is the logical result (if not the last resort) of a system that can no longer trust its own citizens or coexist with nature and democracy to ensure its survival. At his Inauguration the “populist” Mr. Moneybags made a point of surrounding himself with fellow billionaires, making it abundantly clear whose interests he really intends to serve.
Since the little people started yammering about income inequality, demanding the protection of rivers, oceans and the ecosphere, and calling for real democracy — it was obvious things would have to change. It would be necessary to bring in the Big Guns to gut all the institutions that protect and serve these Bolsheviks, ingrates, Saul-Alinskians, and Welfare Queens — remind them who’s Boss. Even the usual neoliberal technocrats could no longer be trusted with the reins of government. Thus the billionaires, the generals, the proto-fascists were recruited for the job. Put people in charge of the justice apparatus who can guarantee there will be no justice.
No doubt these are acts of desperation, but desperate times — for billionaires — call for desperate measures.
The midterm 2018 elections will be here before we know it. All the promises of security, prosperity, White American renewal, replacing science with scripture, and making America “great again” will ultimately be doomed to failure. The coal industry is gone. The robots are coming. The White House is criminally incompetent, ham-handed in its propaganda efforts, and its plans are often little more than half-baked talking points. The deliriously happy billionaires and hucksters who have been tapped to save Capitalism are so focused on stuffing dollars into their own pockets that it will create an unintended form of transparency.
If democracy does survive, and even a modicum of common-sense prevails, I have to believe Americans will finally see the real picture — and reject Trump and his kleptocracy.
But what then for Democrats? Double down on Neoliberalism? Or something different? Maybe not exactly what those old Socialists had in mind — but something rational, equitable, and fair. A game that isn’t fixed. Something that puts people before obscene profit, something that can survive on its own without crisis or strongmen. Something that will elevate the lives of all Americans — not just those living in their gilded towers.
Something that would truly make America great again.