Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What We Should Do

One of my main criticisms of liberal bloggers is that, while they are quick to criticize the policies of those in power, they are often much more reluctant to come forward with alternatives of their own. So as to avoid falling into this trap myself, I have outlined below the economic program that I would attempt to implement if I were in a position to do so.

I shall begin with a quote from Franklin Roosevelt:

“Our Republican leaders tell us economic laws — sacred, inviolable, unchangeable — cause panics which no one could prevent. But while they prate of economic laws, men and women are starving. We must lay hold of the fact that economic laws are not made by nature. They are made by human beings.”
- Franklin Roosevelt (1932)

Sadly, the primary difference between the America of 1932 (in which FDR uttered this line) and its 2010 counterpart is that today, far too many Democrats are becoming gelded echoes of deficit hawks, laissez-fairers, covert plutocrats, myopic shills of Wall Street (such as yourself), and other birds from the Republican economic aviary.

No one is denying that our budget deficit and national debt pose a great threat to our country's fiscal soundness, and that both will eventually need to be addressed. That said, our priority right now must be to alleviate the great human suffering that has been caused by the economic calamities of the Reaganite agenda (the same one brought to its unfortunate fruition under George W. Bush) - rising unemployment, stagnant and/or declining incomes, a deterioration in the quality of our education system, and a dwindling of our national competitiveness with other nations in clean energy, biotechnology, and other industries of the future. These are not problems that can be solved while simultaneously trying to fight the budget deficit and reduce our national debt. Therefore we must accept three hard truths about what our policies need to be, at least temporarily:

1) We will need to drastically increase spending, and with it the deficit and our national debt, until the aforementioned side effects of this economic disaster have subsided. These spending increases should include a comprehensive latter-day New Deal, one which emphasizes modern equivalents to the Works Progress Administration and National Recovery Act; increased regulations on Wall Street and big business; legislation strengthening the power of labor unions to control employee wages; a law that mandates annual increases in the minimum wage in accordance with the national cost of living; state aid to help local government save public sector jobs - and especially teaching positions, thereby guaranteeing that a decline in our education system does not force future generations to pay for today's recession; a job training program to help those who are out-of-work acquire the skills needed to become employed in industries that are creating jobs; and federal investments in future industries that are likely to increase America's worldwide prestige and serve as engines of job creation for years to come.

2) To offset the deleterious impact those spending increases will have on our deficit and national debt, we will need to make dramatic cuts NOT in social programs, but in areas where government spending is either necessary but currently excessive (such as with the military-industrial complex) or a moral as well as fiscal affront (such as the war on drugs, particularly as it is made manifest in the ongoing prohibition of marijuana, and its concurrent proliferation of our prison system).

3) After unemployment is down, wages are up, and the other policies necessary to secure America's economic future have been put in place, we will then need be able to wage a full-frontal assault against the budget deficit and national debt by raising taxes. To accomplish this in a way that brings in enough revenue to actually make a dent in solving these problems, while simultaneously not thrusting the burden onto those Americans least capable of shouldering it, we should raise taxes on both non-essential goods and services (one great example of this would be to not only legalize marijuana, but impose a considerable tax rate on it) and on the individuals and financial entities most capable of affording it (such as by raising taxes on large corporate earnings and the incomes of wealthy Americans back to Eisenhower-era levels).

I am not under the illusion that any of this will be easy. That said, it must be done, not simply because it's financially sound, but because it's morally right.


In a later conversation that I had about deficit hawks (which I have posted in the article after this one), my friend and I had a brief exchange about the value of creating "policy wishlists". The dialogue seemed far more appropriate for this article than its predecessor, which is why I pasted it below as a conclusion to this piece.

Tiguhs OndaBayou
Matt, think that you might be wrong, if just for a few minutes as a thought exercise.

Oh, and u can adjust for inflation and the increase is still there lolalso, I'm all for cutting wasteful programs as you suggested we do. That's a no-brainer. Miltary, war on drugs etc, let's slash spending in half (or eliminate re war on drugs). Do I think these measures are politically feasible at this point in time? About a snowball's chance in hell. we can revert to making policy wishlists whist raising our fists at the man, but I thought we got that out if our system in undergrad

Matthew Rozsa
1) It is pretty condescending of you to assume that I haven't tried to imagine this case from the other point-of-view, not merely because it insults my open-mindedness, but because it operates on the premise that no one who understands your position could possibly come to an intelligent disagreement with it.

2) Adjust for inflation and the increase is not there. Trust me, I've done my research too.
3) That's the problem with so-called centrists - they have a cynical contempt for the practical value of idealism. History has shown that people usually wind up landing a little bit lower than the highest point toward which they shoot. That is why it is important to aim for the ideal in all things, rather than make concessions as to what you can accomplish before you even try; those who adopt the latter approach may take comfort in being smugly assured of their own "pragmatism", but it is those in the former category who change the world.

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