There was a time — thirty years ago, maybe — I would have pooh-poohed some of what Jesse Myerson is proposing in Rolling Stone — “Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For.” Now I just say, go for it, young folks.
All right, settle down, these proposals are hardly as far-out as they may sound at first glance. Number one is a public works program, number two is a universal basic income, the third is a land value tax, the fourth is collectivizing wealth ownership by having the government buy up private sector assets and paying a dividend to all citizens (Alaska has a program similar to this in place), and the fifth is pretty much what it says: i.e., a public bank that doesn’t rip off its customers or rape the country. …
… Myerson’s program may or may not be, in the words of Michael Harrington, “the left wing of the possible” — at least not yet. They are too visionary for that. But that’s not to say that what he envisions does not exist in the world, and could never exist here. The reforms he outlines are your basic social democracy — you know, society as it exists in uncivilized hellholes like Denmark and Sweden — spiced with some classic American populism. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, or next week, or in the next five years. But I think it’s important for progressives to have a long-term plan that is truly aspirational and idealistic — in other words, something other than fending off further cuts and praying the Republicans don’t get re-elected in the next two or four years. Without boldness and imagination, a political movement will fail. It will lose its power to inspire, and it will end up at best barely holding steady, and at worst, seriously losing ground.
In our current political climate these ideas may be non-starters. And to say that the Right is going ballistic over Myerson’s article is an understatement. They’re having a Red Scare meltdown and hurling every infantile insult they can think of in his direction.
But y’know what, wingnuts? We’ve tried it your way. It doesn’t work.
In their minds markets are never free enough and taxes are never low enough, so righties will deny their way has been tried. But every time the country enacts another tax cutting and market-freeing measure, life gets harder and more precarious for most of us. That’s just a plain fact. We’ve been lurching toward Reason Magazine Promised Land lo these more than 30 years, and now we’re close enough to see it. And it doesn’t look so hot.
This is rich: Newt Gingrich sneered at New York Mayor De Blasio’s new administration as “small soy latte liberalism.”
“Those earning between $500,000 and $1 million a year,” the new mayor continued, “…would see their taxes increase by an average of $973 a year. That’s less than three bucks a day — about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks.”
It was sadly symbolic that Mayor de Blasio was speaking one week before the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of a “War on Poverty.” …
… Here are the facts: After 50 years and trillions of dollars, bureaucratic government has lost the war on poverty. Each year, we spend $17,000 per person in poverty on means-tested welfare programs alone, as Peter Ferrara points out. That adds up to more than $16 trillion since 1965. Yet today, left-wing leaders like Mayor de Blasio and President Barack Obama still call inequality “the defining issue of our time.” What does this say about their welfare bureaucracies? …
… Poor Americans need a fundamental break from a system which has trapped so many in dependency.
A small reminder that the last President with genuinely progressive domestic policies was Lyndon Johnson. Too bad his Administration crashed and burned in Vietnam, but at least he wanted to expand the New Deal, not cut it. And, yeah, we’re talking 50 years ago. Since then, we’ve had varying degrees of timid, let’s not scare the chickens moderation to full bore, rape the earth uber-Reaganism. Johnson’s War on Poverty was gutted decades ago. The biggest financial disasters of our lifetimes came about because New Deal regulations were cut so that markets could be freer. Every time we let the Right get its way, things get worse. And economic inequality grows. And more people get trapped in a poverty hole with no ladder out.
So, y’know what, righties? Bloviate all you like. You got nothin’ Your ideas are zombies. They don’t work. The more power you have, the more you screw up our country. So kick your heels and cry and scream about Marxism and insult us all you like. We should all have started ignoring you a long time ago, but maybe it’s not too late to start now.