The Matrix is hiring...
The Matrix is hiring... 20th Century Fox

While there was lots of talk about the 1,000 or so jobs that Trump saved with a bunch of promised tax breaks—an approach to job protectionism that if it expands or becomes a national policy (jobs for tax breaks) could have very bad consequences for the larger economy, as Bernie Sanders pointed out—Obama, with no assistance from Republican lawmakers, returned unemployment to the level it was a year before the crash in 2008. His economy added 178,000 jobs in November and continues to break the record for consecutive months, currently 80, of job growth.

Now, it is true that full employment is something of a prison for American workers because it is not liberated by other social democratic features (such as meaningful wealth distributive mechanisms and checks on financial speculation) and favors the private forms of capital (rather than public) because it makes an expensive society durable for a large part of the population. And the reason why things must be expensive in an economy that can, if given the chance to produce and consume through public means, be cheap is to soak up surpluses and make capital scarce. If capital is not scarce, then its value falls, and this devaluation, which is prevented not by economic but political means, is what the owners of large amounts of capital, called rentiers, fear the most. It would euthanize them.

The result of all this, as the American post-Keynesian economist Hyman Minsky pointed out in the last chapter of a book recommended by last week's Person of Interest, Alan Harvey, the local heterodox economist and executive director of the Institute for Dynamic Economic Analysis (IDEA), is a socialism for the rich. But it must also be said that it's better to have full employment alone than high unemployment with a fully deregulated financial sector and low taxes for the rich, a situation which, with Trump in power, will happen within a few years. (The important thing to watch is not government debt but private debts, which will explode again under Trump and create a temporary asset boom in the equity markets—this is already happening, it's called Trumphoria.) This situation, which will not have existed since the "red '30s," as those on the left like to call it, or the Great Depression, as the mainstream names it, will be terribly unstable and managed by a politician who is not known for a steady hand but for "shaking things up."

But here is the really bad news: you do not want to go into a socialism for all in a state of economic panic. You want to win democratic socialism during a period of stability and relative prosperity. This is the mistake that many on the radical left make every time. They are waiting for the working classes to snap out of their dream-life in the Matrix ("You know, I know this steak doesn't exist...") and face the desert of the real. But this is precisely the opposite of what made the sequence of anti-neoliberal globalization protests that began with the WTO conference in Seattle so important. They erupted at a time when the US economy was booming. They were a positive or affirmative revolt. A revolt not out of the shock or fear of an empty stomach, but born of moral conviction.

But what are the activists and politicians who told voters that Trump was the same as Clinton (Sawant and others) doing now? Waiting for the rural and suburban voters to hurt so much under Trump that they wake up in Zion and revolt against the machines of their oppression (thus voting for Stein was a kind of political short selling). A negative revolt has always led to weak and damaged forms of democratic socialism that history has shown to fail again and again. (RIP, Castro.)

A socialism expanded from a stable political order and economy—this would be have been something new in the world.