The Progressive Dilemma
A self described representative democracy in which the only two political parties are both funded and controlled by elite corporate interests is a contradiction in terms. Control of the population through government propaganda and a monopoly corporate media have made the domination of the American working class and poor by the wealthy corporate elite consensual. The enormity of the crime against true democratic values is so complete that substantive reform of the present system is an impossibility.
A dilemma is a situation in which one is forced to choose between equally distasteful options. That has always been our consignment as Americans when we venture to the polls (either vote for a wishy/washy Democrat or let the even worse Republican win). Every two years we are told that the fate of our democracy rests on our decision. Well it doesn't because we don't have a democracy, representative or otherwise. We have a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy). Our two political parties answer out of necessity to the corporate world. No one represents the people and the monopoly corporate media will not allow for a discussion of democratic alternatives.
The chickens have come home to roost from the last 30 years of economic neoliberal globalization policies championed by both political parties. Supply side economics of massive tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of the very modest checks on American capitalism necessitated by the Great Depression have made us the most unequal industrial democracy on earth. Imperial wars of aggression and massive bailouts of the very speculators who engineered the financial collapse leading to the Great Recession have allowed both corporate parties to take the stance that there is no money left for the people's needs. This is poppycock. How can a consumer driven economy recover if the working class and poor have no jobs or money?
To cut spending on social programs with political cover, Obama came up with the brilliant idea of a Budget Deficit Commission made up of bipartisan hacks from both our two corporate parties, representatives from the corporate world of greed and a single union president. Green Party and socialists need not apply and in fact there are no even mildly progressive Democrats (an oxymoron if there ever was one) on the commission. The Commission is not a result of legislation from our Congress. It was formed by Executive Order. This is the way dictators govern, but that's another issue. The Commission is charged to cut the Budget Deficit by cutting social programs only and leaving the military spending intact. If and when 14 of the Commission's 18 members agree on policy it will go straight to Congress for a vote with no amendments allowed.
Co-chairman of the Commission Alan Simpson, former Republican Senator from Wyoming received some notoriety recently by referring to seniors on Social Security as "lesser people", calling Social Security a "cow with 310 million tits" and asking the question of Vietnam veterans "what have they done for us lately?' None of this bothered our President enough to ask for Simpson's resignation. Their recommendation is due in December, after the election.
We are expected to accept the government propaganda that the unemployment rate is 9.6%, when that figure does not include those no longer receiving or who never received unemployment compensation, part time workers desiring full time work or workers disdainfully referred to as having given up looking for work. Including all these would bring the unemployment figure to 22%. But that still doesn't count those working for less than a livable wage, this would easily bring the figure well beyond the 30% range. This assault on the working class has been the goal of the neoliberal globalization policy accepted as gospel by both corporate political parties since Ronald Reagan started selling it in the 70s and 80s when he set out to save the country from the scourge of a prosperous working class. The Great Communicator pushed his dogma of bad government/good corporations with the same smile he used to push Twenty Mule Team Borax soap to TV viewers years earlier.
More than three million families have already been foreclosed and torn from their homes. Another 11 million families are "underwater" (owing more that the home is worth). Research firm First American Core Logic reports that Nevada with 65% of home mortgages underwater, Arizona with 48%, Florida with 45%, Michigan with 37% and California with 35% lead the nation in this foreboding statistic.
The Republicans propose fiscal austerity for the poor and working class and continued tax cuts for the wealthy corporate class to find our way our of the Great Recession. Obama and the Democrats say that economic growth will do the trick. Both so called solutions are illogical. We are expected to believe that if the big bad bankers would just pretty please start loaning money to businesses, the economy will start humming and everything will be hunky dory?
I'm not an economist, but I have been a small businessman and I have been told on more than one occasion that I have half a brain. The road to recovery is both simple and difficult. For businesses to thrive, for the economy to hum, the business owners simply need customers with money in their pockets. The first step is to put our citizens back to work at a livable wage and the economy will flourish. It will be difficult, to the point of impossibility, for corporate politicians to consider the people at the bottom first, but that is what needs to be done.
We are told that the fall elections are for the control of our country. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are told that we cannot allow the Republican Party of No to win Congress, yet the Democrats have controlled Congress for four years, the White House for two and there has been no challenge to the draconian policies of social spending cuts, endless imperial war and progressively greater and greater inequality. All now completely part and parcel of the fabric of a nation once founded on the single statement that "all men are created equal." Regardless of which party wins and controls Congress, elite domination of the poor and working class will continue.
Understand that the system is beyond redemption. Recognize that we have exported the cancer of elite domination through globalization across the globe and that the struggle belongs to all the poor and working people of the world. Boycott elections that give credibility to this monstrous system of inequality and class domination. Organize on the basis of class and struggle for the equality that was promised in 1776.
Or you can support the Democratic Party and continue to see more of the same; continued wars, huge military budgets, depressed home prices, foreclosures, abandoned underwater mortgages, progressively greater and greater inequality and Depression Era unemployment. All done while the Democrats complain that they would like to change things, but that they just don't have the votes or the heart or the balls. The last two they won't admit to, but we all know better.
I'm not painting a pretty picture, because it isn't pretty and wishing it was better won't make it so. Voting for third party candidates, independents or so called progressive Democrats only serves to give legitimacy to an undemocratic system. The first step toward a true participatory democracy is to vocally and publicly boycott elections and renounce the American system of money controlled policies and politics through the two corporate political parties.
Right wingers and liberal Democrats both love to say that I advocate for some kind of nebulous utopian dream. If you want nebulous from the right tune in to Glen Beck and Sarah Palin's call for restoring America's honor. If you want equivalent from the Democratic Party listen to Obama's calls for hope and change. Both appeals are long on rhetoric and bereft of specific steps to alleviate the misery corporate America and their two lackey political parties have trickled down on the poor and working class.
This socialist utopian will instead give specific plans for a new birth of democracy in America:
• 100% federal funding for all national elections. Under the proposal below this figure will become miniscule.
• No election commercials allowed. This just allows money to pollute politics. Instead require all media outlets to publish and broadcast periodic side by side statements of all the candidates positions on the various issues. Mandate debates in which all the candidates get a chance to state their positions on the issues.
• Require run-off elections if no candidate polls more than 50% of vote. This will facilitate the growth of alternative parties.
• Either eliminate the anti democratic U.S. Senate or require it to do away with the filibuster rule which allows 41 Senators from the smallest states, representing only 11% of the U.S. population to halt all legislation with the exception of certain budget votes.
• Return U.S. income tax rate on the most wealthy Americans to 90% for their excess income over $1 million. For 45 years (1935-1980) the top tax rate was between 70-94%. It is now 35% and the ever widening gap between rich and poor has made the U.S. the equivalent of a banana republic.
• Institute a financial transaction tax on all financial transactions such as stock sales.
• Cancel all free trade agreements and renegotiate into fair trade agreements in which tariffs are reinstituted to even the playing field when dealing with nations with substandard wages and environmental regulations. This is in line with the policy instituted by the first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, done at the behest of George Washington and carried forward for almost two centuries. That is until the neo liberal globalization crowd made their first appearance after WWII and in the last three decades especially have managed to lower tariffs to an average of 2%. The rationale behind tariffs is to level the playing field for our workers. If country A has the same wage rate and basic environmental safeguards as we do a free trade agreement with them is in order. But if country B has a wage rate much lower than ours and pays little attention to environmental safeguards, then we should have tariffs reflecting these differences. Free trade is fine with equal trading partners, but not with countries paying slave wages and polluting the environment like China.
• Give workers a seat at the table on all corporate boards with veto privileges as a protection for the American people from corporate dominance.
• Do away with the minimum wage and institute a living wage guaranteeing all workers a wage allowing for basic necessities. This will vary with the cost of living in different areas and individual family commitments, but for a single worker with no other dependents in an average area it would presently be about $15/hour.
• Institute a massive program similar to the WPA to put all the unemployed to work at a living wage. There is much work to do, let us do it. Our cities need rebuilding, seniors need care, single parents need parenting help, homes need to be made energy efficient, infrastructure needs repair.
• For small businesses that show through their tax returns an inability to pay their workers the living wage, have the federal government make up the difference until such time as the small business can support its workers on its own.
• Abolish the Federal Reserve Bank and institute a national bank with the power to create money presently given to the Federal Reserve. As the population and economy grows their is a need to create money. If this is not done it causes deflation and things get progressively cheaper. While that might sound nice at first glance, not creating money would be every bit the disaster that high inflation can be. Imagine buying a home with a mortgage and watching the price drop every year. That's deflation. We now have that with home prices, but for other reasons. Anyway, the new national bank will have the power to create money and the profit from creating this money will benefit all the people instead of the present banking class.
• The mortgage crisis must be addressed. The megabanks and Wall Street brought it on and should be required to adjust all mortgage balances down by the local percentage that home prices have dropped. The federal government might then consider not prosecuting those responsible for the crisis.
• Capitalism requires continual growth. This is at odds with the earth's environment. We need to create a sustainable economy which does not wreak havoc with the earth's delicate ecosystems. Economic growth is good only when it is environmentally sustainable.
• Just as the poor and working class are required to pay social security tax on all their income, require the wealthy to do the same.
• Recognize that healthcare is a human right and immediately institute either 100% government single payer healthcare for all or have government take over the healthcare apparatus and be both the employer and the payer of all healthcare bills. I was fortunate enough to have such socialized government healthcare for my four years spent in the U.S. military. I found it top notch and my care included an emergency appendectomy and later a prolonged hospitalization upon returning from Vietnam.
• End the wars for U.S. Empire overseas. Close our 700 overseas military bases. Cut the total military budget (now in excess of $1 trillion) in half and then half again.
• Disband the Central Intelligence Agency and apologize to the people of all the countries in which our CIA engineered coups to overthrow democratically elected governments. A partial list would include Chile, Brazil, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela, Greece, Congo and Iran.
• End military aid to Israel and break off diplomatic relations with them until such time as they agree to abandon all the illegal settlements in the West Bank, tear down the apartheid wall, end the criminal blockade of Gaza and finally allow the Palestinian people a free and independent state based on the 1967 borders that are recognized by the international community of nations.
• The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Democratic Minority Report in 2005 declared that there was a prima facie case that the Bush Administration broke at least seven federal and international laws in taking us into war in Iraq. If we are to be a country of laws, Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell etc. must be investigated and prosecuted.
• Those responsible at the highest level for our policy of torture must be prosecuted.
• Equal diligence should be given to investigating and prosecuting the financial machinations behind the mortgage derivative bundling and trading scams. If they agree to reduce all mortgages by the local percentage drop in value, rework terms for those facing foreclosure, put already foreclosed families back in their homes and donate the rest of their ill gotten gain to charity, we might want to consider not prosecuting.
• The 9/11 Commission Investigation and Report was a complete whitewash. How can there be independence in the investigation when the President is allowed to appoint all the members of the commission? The American people are owed the truth and an independent investigation is absolutely necessary if we are to call ourselves a nation of laws.
• A democracy cannot exist without an informed citizenry. Media purveyors must be required to present the full spectrum of news and opinion.
Politicians from both political parties will avoid these issues like the plague. The question is, should you? Or are you content to support politicians who use soaring rhetoric in describing the plight of our people and then line up in support of corporate friendly legislation that continues the race to the bottom for the poor and working class of America? Will your vote for Congress and the U.S. Senate go to a Democratic candidate who supports not a single one of the above proposals? If the answer is yes and you consider yourself a progressive or liberal, what exactly does that mean?
We can't fix this system by voting, petitioning, marching or lobbying. We have to change the system. The first step is to call the system what it is; monstrous, criminal and undemocratic. The next step is to refuse to participate in elections and to not be bashful in telling others why. This won't save the world now, but it's the only hope for the future.
This article first appeared in OnlineJournal.com
Nick Egnatz is a Vietnam veteran. He has been actively protesting our government’s crimes of empire in both person and print for some years now and was named “Citizen of the Year” for Northwest Indiana in 2006 for his peace activism by the National Association of Social Workers.
Contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org