The progressive dilemma
By Nick Egnatz
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Sep 20, 2010, 00:19
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 year, 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 (National
Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform) 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 percent, 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 percent. But that still doesn�t count those working for less than
a livable wage, this would easily bring the figure well beyond the 30 percent
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 3 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 percent of home mortgages underwater, Arizona with 48
percent, Florida with 45 percent, Michigan with 37 percent and California with
35 percent 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
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
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:
percent federal funding for all national elections. Under the proposal
below this figure will become miniscule.
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.
run-off elections if no candidate polls more than 50 percent of vote. This
will facilitate the growth of alternative parties.
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 percent of the U.S. population to halt all
legislation with the exception of certain budget votes.
U.S. income tax rate on the most wealthy Americans to 90 percent for their
excess income over $1 million. For 45 years (1935-1980) the top tax rate
was between 70-94 percent. It is now 35 percent and the ever widening gap
between rich and poor has made the U.S. the equivalent of a banana
a financial transaction tax on all financial transactions such as stock
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
percent. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 there 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.
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.
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
as the poor and working class are required to pay social security tax on
all their income, require the wealthy to do the same.
that healthcare is a human right and immediately institute either 100
percent 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.
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
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
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
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.
responsible at the highest level for our policy of torture must be
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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