Daily Archives: January 27, 2014

SOTU 2014: The Cognitive Power of the President

Truthout has another item on SOTU 2014: The Cognitive Power of the President by George Lakoff.

Beyond material power, the president has even greater power – cognitive power – and he hasn’t used it much. Cognitive power is the power to put important ideas in people’s minds by shaping public discourse. He has the unique power to change how America thinks simply by discussing crucial ideas over and over.
He started talking, as Elizabeth Warren has so eloquently, about the crucial nature of public resources, but he messed up once (“You didn’t build it”) and stopped. He needs to take up that theme, get it right and repeat it in every speech.

When Lakoff started talking about cognitive power, I immediately started to think of Elizabeth Warren.  She has shaped a lot of the national debate about holding banks and bankers accountable among other things.  She has much less formal power than the President, but she sure knows how to multiply the strength of her informal power.  What has Hillary Clinton done to change the tone of the debate in this country?

President Obama’s Inequality Story

Truthout has Dean Baker’s article President Obama’s Inequality Story.

There are some items on President Obama’s agenda that push in the wrong direction, most notably his plans for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is wrongly billed as a “free-trade” agreement. In reality it has very little to do with free trade.
Unfortunately, full employment does not seem to be on anyone’s agenda right now. The budget cuts that slowed the economy and cost us millions of jobs over the last three years are now largely behind us, but no one seems prepared to push an investment agenda or the sort of trade policy that can bring us back to full employment any time soon.

That means we will see little real progress in addressing inequality based on President Obama’s agenda. An increase in the minimum wage is an important goal with substantial benefits but it should not be confused with an inequality agenda.

I don’t expect a lot from Obama’s State of the Union address.  His adamant position on this equality destroying TPP agreement and his inability to see the damage he is doing to the economy with his efforts to cut the deficit preclude his figuring out what this country needs right now.

So if he doesn’t know what the country needs, how can he figure out how to fix the problems?

I’d give my wisdom teeth to be wrong about the speech.

The 20 Richest Americans Are Greedy Takers—Not Inspirational ‘Makers’

Alternet has the article The 20 Richest Americans Are Greedy Takers—Not Inspirational ‘Makers’.

They have all taken from the public or from employees, or through taxes or untaxed inheritances.
The top individuals on the 2013  Forbes 400 list are generally believed to be makers of great companies or concepts. They are the role models of Paul Ryan, who  laments, “We’re going to a majority of takers versus makers in America.” They are defended by Cato Institute CEO  John A. Allison IV, who once protested: “Instead of an attack on the 1 percent, let’s call it an attack on the very productive.”

But many of the richest Americans are takers. The top twenty, with a total net worth of almost  two-thirds of a trillion dollars, have all taken from the public or from employees, or through taxes or untaxed inheritances.

Read the article to see if your favorite billionaire is on this list.  Decide if they built it themselves or had help.


The web site community-wealth.org is the one mentioned in the previous post The Promise and Limitations of Worker Co-ops – Gar Alperovitz on Reality Asserts Itself (4/5).

The purpose of the web site is succinctly stated in its subtitle “Resources for democratic, community-based economic development”.

Here is an adapted excerpt and transcript of Democracy Democracy Collaborative Executive Director Ted Howard’s presentation to a four-city teleconference organized by the regional Federal Reserve Banks in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit and Philadelphia.

The Promise and Limitations of Worker Co-ops – Gar Alperovitz on Reality Asserts Itself (4/5)

The Real News Network has the video The Promise and Limitations of Worker Co-ops – Gar Alperovitz on Reality Asserts Itself (4/5). This is the continuation of the series I started to cover in the previous blog post Understanding the Imperialist System Changed My Life – Gar Alperovitz on Reality Asserts Itself (Parts 1 – 3 out of 5).

The following excerpt gives you a small taste of what is covered in the interview:

ALPEROVITZ: Who has power, because the planning system’s going to be controlled by somebody, and it’s either the corporations or we have to–and to say that is to say, you want to play this game about changing the system? The chips are three decades of your life. We’re talking about big-time build from the bottom, begin to reshape from the neighborhood, from the worker-owned co-ops, from the cities, some of the really interesting things that you’re doing here in Baltimore, beginning to build up knowledge, ideas, experiments, a program that actually is practical and look at it as a 30-year strike, as a strategy at least to begin to deal with the power of this system. So that’s the name of the game.

JAY: And, I mean, it flows from the idea that concentration of ownership gives rise to concentration of political power.


JAY: So you need to change the way things are owned.

ALPEROVITZ: That’s the central element. Systems–you know, in feudalism it was land; who owned the land had the power. Capitalism, who owns the capital has the power. State socialism, there was a form where the state controlled it, and it could have been democratized.

JAY: Well, it was another form of too much concentration of ownership, because the party winds up controlling the state, so the party now has the concentration of ownership, and you wind up with the same kind of–similar kind of problem. I can’t say the same kind, but it’s a similar kind of problem.

ALPEROVITZ: Yeah, exactly, which tells you that the model that we want to build has to have democratized ownership, but democratized in a way that builds from the bottom up, so that the concentrations of power are not overly concentrated, that the terms are whether–appropriate to the scale. So little co-ops in some places, city-owned in other places, neighborhood-owned in other places.

This interview has hit on the core point that concentrations of power are not good. They may lead to efficiency over medium time frames, but they also lead to fragility over longer time frames. So the new model of cooperatives will be good as long as there are lots of them with competing ideas and products.

What used to keep the “capitalist” system in this country from being driven to concentrations of power was the anti-trust law framework. Enforcement of anti-trust has practically disappeared from the scene. Of course the lack of anti-trust regulation is a political problem because of the concentration of power in control of the politics.

Worker coops and increased anti-trust regulation could go hand-in-hand toward getting us back on the right track, but only if centralized political power can be prevented from reining these things in. The people with the power aren’t going to give it up very easily. So it all boils down in the end to solving this problem of concentrated political power.

I wait for part 5 to find out what Gar has to say about solving that problem, other than hoping that somehow these experimental organizations will lead to such a solution to breaking up the political power of the vested interests? Also, we have to account for the fact that concentrations of power exist on a global scale. If we were to solve it in the USA, would that be enough?

The more i think about it, the breaking up of the concentrated economic power may be enough to solve our problems. It probably matters less how each and every small center of power organizes itself. That can evolve if the environment is made to support the evolution. Evolution is the adaptation to the environment. It works in biology and it works in any system where “natural” selection is allowed to work.