Rather than complaining about our lives, our incomes, our ability to maintain some kind of minimal lifestyle, it may be time to do what every good militant has done since before Lenin or George Washington….join up. We need to bite the bullet and become more active in some kind of populist group. Some may participate in Democratic clubs or Progressive Groups. Are there Independent political organizations? We all need to participate for our mutual economic benefit. We need to change the economy. To do it, we need to work together.
It would not even be out of line to join the Republican Party for those who are, say, more fiscally conservative and feel people should be more self sufficient. That could be a motivation for joining Republicans. There must be dissident Republicans. Not every Republican can think that Barack Obama is another Hitler or a liar, or is a Socialist. If he were he would (and maybe should) have taken over the financial segment of society, lock, stock, and barrel. All groups have dissident members. Either way it is better to observe from the middle of a crowd than from an armchair at home.
We are facing an economic crisis. Powerful forces on the other side are working even now to make our lives less economically powerful and their position stronger. The majority of Americans are somewhere in the middle and slightly to the left. Most of us want health care and job security and retraining in a new job if our old industry becomes obsolete. We are not the crazies on the streets at tea parties. What we want is not expressed by those people carrying signs.
We want freedom to speak out, hopefully with good taste. We want opportunity to earn a living. We want to be safe from predators from within or without the country. We want security also from destitution in old age. We don’t want one illness or accident to bankrupt us. As part of opportunity, we want our children to have an equal education, at least in the public system, with other children, regardless of the location where they were born or raised. And while we not only encourage others to work and develop ideas that may make them very wealthy, we do not want the wealthy to control our government or our media. We have discovered that this inevitably becomes oppressive. It is human nature.
That’s it. That is a pretty minor set of freedoms. We can all grow and those with more talent or perhaps those more driven to succeed will become wealthier. Most Americans do not begrudge others success. If they aspire to wealth they are happy to see it is possible. If they do not, the image of success often gives them pride in the very fact of the opportunity available in this country. The Baby Boomers came of age in a society that had decided that it would insure equal opportunity for all and it would guarantee to all citizens a minimum standard of living. Food, shelter and minimal living costs would be the safety net. We may legitimately debate whether it was half-a-loaf given grudgingly or whether it was a bad idea that removed motivation and created generations of welfare recipients because of misguided principles. Either way, we Americans see ourselves as a moral, compassionate country, and the so-called safety net was created from our best intentions. And it was right.
When we see people out on the street, parading with signs that are pretty vicious, ask yourself this question. Do any of the people you know feel that way? Do they really hate the President, a man who seems to be working as hard as possible to quickly come through honestly on the promises he campaigned on? Do they see him as a dictator with a little mustache, pounding his fist on a desk and shouting at citizens? One might say that he should shout more often, especially at Congressmen and Senators elected by the People to do the right things for the People, like health care reform.
The political problems in this country are very simple. Backed by lobbying groups with huge amounts of money, pandering to the craziest, even dangerously paranoid people in our society, the Republicans decided early on that they would work with their friends…big corporations…to defeat the will of the majority of people. They are doing the bidding of the now roughly 13,000 registered lobbyists (it was as high as 15,000 a couple of years ago) and the other groups like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks and many, many others. Estimates say that there are as many as 85,000 people in Washington whose job it is, in one way or another, to influence Congress.
The job of these people is to try to attract as many of the paranoid schizophrenic loonies as they can. These are very heavily ignorant people heavily Southern, but not exclusively, who cannot accept that a black person should be permitted to be better than they are. These are the clowns who are not even equals of those going about their business passing them on the street.
They are easily motivated by propaganda to march when it allows them, they think, to express their hatred with the legitimacy of walking in a supposedly anti-government rally. But they went too far. When questioned by serious reporters, they were found to have no legitimate concerns that had any validity. All their causes turned out to be objections to false issues put forth by Right Wing media. They never did and still do not question the validity of the comments of the Right Wing commentators.
So let’s summarize one side. The giant corporations and their lobbyists and think tanks and bought-and-paid-for Republican minority…plus all the non-thinking religious right, the irrational right that remains from Ronald Reagan era conservatives, the true racist loonies, not unlike the guy who shot up the Holocaust Museum or the man who shot the doctor at the woman’s clinic in Kansas or the half dozen others who have shot up police or children or places of employment. (More guns, says LaPierre of the NRA will solve that problem…arm everyone just in case. Sell more guns is what he means.) The freaks are looking for any excuse to show off, to express their opinions, even if, when you hear them you wonder, as Barney Franks said to the obviously paid propagandist at his town hall meeting…what planet do they come from? The reason that many of them seem irrational and paranoid is that the organizers set up the situations to pander specifically to these kinds of people.
So where do the rest of us come in? Why must we go out and organize? Because we now live in a society where the people pushing all those people just mentioned are economically very powerful. We can balance that power with the sheer numbers of American citizens. It is true that we all voted for change. But these people are fighting against change, against your vote. And they are offering money to politicians to vote against your interests and then they say…”See all those people out there demonstrating? They’re going to vote you out of office.” The only way that Senators and Congress men and women will know whether this is true…at least in some key cases…is if we get out there too, or our organizations can mobilize through the mail or by phone. It has to be done. And this is why.
We need an economic revolution.
For many years after the Second World War, the United States was paying off its bills. FDR had built up some substantial debts with the reconstruction of the country, with job creation programs, and then…wow…the Second World War…and those gigantic costs. We had a pretty substantial economy going by the end of the war and the G.I.s came home and we began to manufacture the things that been restricted by the war needs…homes, cars, appliances.
Things went along pretty well until the Viet Nam War and the post-war reluctance to pay for it. The result, plus the first effects of the importation of large amounts of foreign oil moved the economy out of balance. By the late 1970s, we had some serious economic problems and along came a man out of the West, a lone stranger to Washington, a celluloid hero…Ronald Wilson Reagan. I suppose that if we are all good natured about it, we can look back on him as kind of a beneficent old grandpa, with a strong streak of righteousness. But what he set in motion we now have to undo if we are ever to make this country work again.
This is what we must press Congress to accomplish:
1. We must be prepared to accept the fact that taxing the highest percentages of income, both personal and corporate, is necessary and not unfair. If you make a certain amount of money in any given year, it may be ten times or a hundred times as much as your neighbor and that is fair. But when you earn hundreds of millions, some money at the tip of those funds must be reinvested in industry here in the United States. Not taxed necessarily. But reinvested within a certain amount of time after it is earned. Otherwise, it is money earned, not used, not spent…wasted.
2. We must not let demagogues and “economists” with an axe to grind for an industry influence the decisions of Congress against the will of the People. The number one way that they will do that in the scenario I am talking about is to cry that “tariffs will ruin industry.” Here is what has actually ruined industry. Jobs that used to be done here are being done in China. Jobs that used to be done here are being done in India. We must restore a system of tariffs in order to generate revenues to jump start our non-existent manufacturing base. We can do this with little objection from other countries by making it a very broad and very small duty on anything manufactured by an American corporation in a foreign country using foreign workers.
A large manufacturing plant employs 5,000 people. That plant adds $150 million to the economy. We have lost over three million jobs in the last year and it is not over yet. To put those people back to work we need 600 plants like that. Someone has to help pay the bill.
3. We must have health care reform in which each individual will be able to purchase a good health care program either from a private non-profit insurance company or a heavily regulated for-profit health insurance provider or from the government. We cannot make anything work until that problem is solved. We need to phase it in starting with extending Medicare right away, and implementing the program in stages by the end of 2010. Not one day later. People are hurting and people are dying.
4. A carbon tax. We need to redirect our thinking towards renewable energy. We have very good models now of what we can do to become self sufficient, to stop importing oil from other countries, to power our electricity and run our vehicles on non-polluting energy. Now other countries are making strides. China is beginning to go green. If we continue to be aggressive in changing over to new energy by taxing carbon, which will often be passed on to us, we will generate several huge new industries with jobs which, as Senator John Kerry says, “cannot be outsourced to other countries.”
All this will take the will of the People. Even if we organize now, work now, win now…it will take ten or twenty years to recover from the last eight years when our country was, sadly, looted by an outrageous group of political gangsters. Many of them made money in the tens and hundreds of millions by outsourcing to other countries, by creating false fears and new wars to manufacture more military equipment and fighting wars, using up that equipment so that the country would be required to replenish it. We have been cheated…and there is no way of equivocating or softening it…by the Republicans. We have been hollowed out. It is payback time. Someone must pay the bill to restore this country in the the four ways, and more, mentioned. That is why we must all join in to see to it that there is payback…an economic revolution.