• Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • Democratic Governance is Becoming Discredited

    Tom Ferguson: The two major parties have next to no relationship to the population, it is a deeply corrupt discussion -   November 28, 2011
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


    Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

    I support TRNN because it is the closest expression of the ideal of a free press I have seen. - Daniel
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


    Democratic Governance is Becoming DiscreditedPAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Washington. And in Washington--surprise, surprise--politics is once again paralyzed. The supercommittee is more or less dead in the water, which means that they don't know what to do about their deficit emergency. And that's what the press is all full of and President Obama is also speaking about, that without an agreement, there won't be the necessary cuts to the deficit. But perhaps what's more urgent and is also going to be affected by this paralysis is anything to be done about the unemployment situation. And maybe that's really the more important piece of this, which almost none of the media is talking about. Now joining us to deconstruct all of this is Tom Ferguson. Tom is a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and he's a regular contributor to The Real News Network. Thanks for joining us, Tom.


    JAY: So this--what do you make of the paralysis, the mess? The 2012 election campaign is on, nothing else seems to matter, and Rome burns.

    FERGUSON: Well, I have to tell you, you know, in American politics, every day is turkey day. And here we are at Thanksgiving time, so--or I guess that's doubled. Look, I think, Paul, this is becoming crazy. And your--a couple of your remarks there are exactly on target. I mean, the deficit committee, or the supercommittee, the budget committee, is really a failed effort to solve the wrong problem. Now, that's going to make everything irrational just by its start. But what's becoming really dangerous is this is like, you know, three strikes and you're out. This might be strike two or strike three. If you count--the first strike was the Obama incoming decision to do a half-size stimulus. You know. And in that, what he managed to do in two or two and a half years there was leave a very high rate of unemployment and a lot of people convinced that you couldn't use the state to do anything. Now we have an effort to tell people, oh, you've got to--your biggest problem is cutting the budget, which is ridiculous on its face in a recession. And then, of course, they couldn't do it. This is beginning to delegitimate the whole idea of democratic governance. And you--I can see this trend as I listen, you know, in the news. I mean, let's hope we don't end up rather like--you know, in Greece and in Italy you now have technocratic governments headed by former folks who worked for American investment banks. It's obvious that the desire for a technocratic thing is beginning to get very intense in parts of American society.

    JAY: And when--they use this term technocratic, but when you look at what happened in Greece, and particularly in Italy, it's like direct rule by bankers.

    FERGUSON: That's right. That's right. Yeah, I hope I was reasonably clear on that. Yeah, that's right. And, you know, in the case of the--I mean, you obviously don't have any reason to be chopping the budget much at all in a recession. But when you sort of deconstruct their dialog, if you compare that to the polls, the polls were giving you a very clear indication on what the public wanted. This is, I think, the clearest case I've seen in my lifetime. And you look at the polls, everybody's polls, two out of three Americans--a little more than that, actually--wanted taxes raised on the rich. Even a majority of the Republicans. And by four to one or more, Americans didn't want cuts in Social Security and they didn't want them in Medicare. So what did the Democrats do? They began by offering cuts in Medicare and Social Security. And then the Republicans wouldn't, you know, raise taxes. In the end, that's why the thing fell through. I mean, you can do all you want about on the one hand and on the other was the Republican refusal to relent on taxes that actually sent down this deal.

    JAY: Yeah. I've often wondered, you know, if you try to put myself in pre-World War I days, you know, how a world stumbles into such, you know, insanity as World War I, and you can kind of see it now. Like, there's just no rational--there's such an obvious, let me say, rational way to go here. Like, if you look at what's going on in Europe, there's such relatively easy fixes, and they just are not willing to do it. And we saw, on Wednesday, Germany was selling its ten-year bonds, and it barely sold half of them because people don't even want to buy German bonds now. I mean, really we're in such a dangerous moment. And the theater that goes on in Washington is like--it's not even in denial; it's like 2012 election is all that matters, and to hell with the world.

    FERGUSON: Yeah. It's also a little scary, in that you can see in the way the president varied his tactics he was deeply involved in the earlier negotiations over the extension of the budget and over the budget ceiling. And, you know, he was pushing the party leadership in Congress to offer deals that would sometimes give as much as, you know, $10 in cuts for every dollar in tax rises. Now, this time around he held back, and as best as I can tell, that ratio didn't reach worse than about 2 to 1, that is to say, $2 in cuts for every proposed $1 in a tax rise. But I am quite struck by the way the president disappeared from these negotiations. He obviously decided he had nothing to gain from being involved. But that's a fantastic situation for, as you suggest, a country in the middle of a deep recession. He's obviously calculating that he will--that most people will blame the Republicans, and I don't doubt that they will. I expect to see the Republican negatives and in Congress go up. But I also think it makes Obama look pretty weak, and I suspect that his rating as a leader, which is already low, is going to go down. I mean, it's--you can feel a vacuum forming in American politics, even as the population detests more and more both political parties. I've never seen this in my life, and I guess I used to wonder whether it could actually happen. But, you know, here we are, and this is really something new under the sun in terms of recent experience.

    JAY: Is the underlying issue here is that the global financial elite and, you know, these top 40, 50 financial conglomerates, banks, and such and such, and then all the various interests connected to them, is they kind of reach the conclusion that the kind of structural changes that would be necessary to put off this deep recession/depression--in other words, real regulation, a real rise in wages, some kind of democratization--those kinds of structural changes are just so unacceptable that they've kind of decided, well, you know what, let's embrace the recession, and, you know, we'll get to buy up lots of goodies, we'll concentrate ownership more, we'll privatize public health assets, and so, you know, let the storms come, and we'll find ways to take advantage of it? 'Cause there's just no note of rationality, whether in America or Europe.

    FERGUSON: Well, remember, you've got contested outcomes here, so no single group or party is in a position to just deliver the outcome by themselves. But, you know, I'd accept that as a picture of the view in the Republican Party, and it's quite close to the truth in the Democratic Party. That is to say, there are folks--it's clear, I mean, Obama's raising a lot of money from finance. No matter what you read in The New York Times, that's a fact. Okay? I mean, The Times got that strange calculation by omitting contributions to the Democratic National Committee, which they should've counted there. And, you know, he's going to have a fair amount of support. I mean, that's one reason why he was so unwilling to sort of push in these negotiations. He's clearly trying to raise $1 billion for the campaign. But he is willing to take a tax rise. He just couldn't bring it across, a small one. I mean, you have this sort of--look, I sort of compare American politics right now to--you've got a couple of distant stars, and they're supposed to be revolving around a bigger one, the population, you know, the two political parties, and instead, these two distant stars have now moved off into their own solar system. They have almost no relation to the population. They're--to vary the metaphor, they're really bank accounts. And so it's--now you just--it's--the party system has moved so far from the population, it's ridiculous and it's dangerous, because they can't do anything effectively. I mean, you had a perfectly straightforward view from the polls about what you wanted to do. It wasn't what the parties wanted to do. You know, they wanted taxes raised on the rich, and they didn't want cuts in Medicare and Social Security. But that's the entirety not only of the parties, but as you suggested, the hold--nearly the whole of the media. It's a deeply corrupt discussion.

    JAY: Now, there's some talk of some kind of third party. Where's that at? And where do you think it might lead to?

    FERGUSON: Well, I mean, there's a lot of talk, but there is a very serious effort going on. They call it, I think, Americans elect or something like that. The--if you look closely, they're on the ballot in around 20 states, and they're pretty much on the ballot for next year everywhere you can get on this year for next year. Mostly you have to get on next year for next year. And I don't doubt they'll be moving along. While they say they're sort of above the existing parties, a close look shows you that leadership is very conservative. It's full of people who have in the past tried to overthrow Social Security and things like that. So I think you're going to find--I wouldn't be surprised to see a third-party nominee. Bloomberg's an obvious possibility. The neat thing from his or anybody else's standpoint is that somebody else is paying the bill here. You don't even have to file an exploratory committee. You can just let them put him on, and then you can graciously accept the nomination, if you wanted, you know, in the spring.

    JAY: You've got to figure that's got to hurt the Republicans more than Obama.

    FERGUSON: I'm not going along with that one. I think the turnout problems for the Democrats will be acute, and particularly if, you know, as I suspect, the falloff in blue-collar turnout's going to be a mess. And so if it becomes an election, you know, in which the turnout is way down and it's coming mostly (as turnout tends to do) from upper income groups, I wouldn't rush to the conclusion that it would be the Republicans who would be so--most badly hurt on that. That's--you're probably right, but, boy, I wouldn't bet the house on it. It's--frankly, my feeling about this is a bit like my feeling about all the claims that Romney has the Republican nomination sewed up. I mean, let's see a few elections. Let's see some primary elections. Let's see some--you know, this thing take shape in some polls. I'm a little cautious [crosstalk]

    JAY: So how dangerous a moment are we in?

    FERGUSON: Well, look, you're always in a dangerous position when you've gone three or four years and unemployment remains very high. The historical experience on that in the Great Depression is, I think, very clear. That's when all the swamp creatures come out. That's when, you know, more--I mean, in effect you can sort of see this, right? There's a tendency to polarize along what--you know, from the mass media would describe as the extremes. Now, the extremes here may be, you know, what, in terms of positions, the bulk of the population likes. But, you know, the Tea Party on the right, the Occupy Wall Street folks on the left, though they were doing extremely well in the polls, and despite assurances that they've fallen, I haven't actually seen a really good nationwide poll that shows that. Yeah. The--no, this has shown that the polarization dynamic amid, you know, deepening popular despair and hand-wringing at the ability of your elected officials--you've got to understand this. This is not simply that the government is incapable of doing anything. It's that its ties to big money have made it capable of doing anything. That's what's lacking on PBS, in The New York Times, and elsewhere. It was pathetic the other day in The Wall Street Journal where Gerald Seib had a column where he tried to pin this on redistricting, you know, which just doesn't reach the US Senate. You haven't been--I mean, you can make some kind of a case about redistricting in the House--though, as I've said, you know, in some scholarly papers it's mostly--the evidence there is not good. But, you know, there's--nobody's [redistricting] states, and the Senate's polarized, too. I mean, this is really a bit--this is becoming I Pagliacci--the clowns--in the popular discussion of this.

    JAY: Well, it's--this better be a decade of some new kind of politics, or this decade ain't going to end well. Thanks very much for joining us, Tom.

    FERGUSON: Thanks.

    JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

    End of Transcript

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at


    Latest Stories

    South African Platinum Miner's Struggle Challenges ANC Leadership
    Manning Determined to Fight Back After Army Upholds 35-Year Sentence
    Hundredth Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre
    Important Revelations From New Leaks of CIA Torture Report
    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7), Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting