Go for It, Young Folks

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.

Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider and Kathleen Geier at Washington Monthly both explain that Myerson’s ideas aren’t as radical as they might seem at first glance. Geier writes,

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.

20 thoughts on “Go for It, Young Folks

  1. One nice thing is that there is a rich tradition of redistributionism in American history. Newt Gingrich, being allegedly a historian, might know that Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to James Madison in 1785 commenting on the extreme inequality in France.

    I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable. But the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property…

    He even proposes a progressive income tax for the explicit purpose of redistributing wealth.

    Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, & to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise.

    Does that make Thomas Jefferson a Marxist?

  2. ‘”But I think it’s important for progressives to have a long-term plan that is truly aspirational and idealistic.”
    AND, inspirational!
    And these goals, ARE inspirational!!!

    This country has been in a “Thirty Year Cold Civil War.”
    Over 30, actually.
    And the winners have been the Plutocrats, the Oligarchs, and the rest of the top 1%.
    And they did it with the oldest tool in the world – “Divide, and Conquer.”
    And the rubes don’t mind being conquered – by voting against their own interests for generations – as long as at least ONE or two minority groups is worse-off than them.

    It’s to the point where I don’t recognize the country that I was born and grew-up in.
    This is no longer The United States of America.
    It’s a country with an ever weaker central government.
    And it’s not longer “United.”
    Parts of it are united, but the confederation of the Confederate states, has managed to stop progress to varying degrees, ever since the end of The Civil War.
    And more so since LBJ got the VRA’s passed.
    And especially now that an African-American male has been elected POTUS.

    I wish it were otherwise.

    And, I don’t see any solution for this – at least not in my lifetime.

    Maybe the kids will do better than we did.
    I sure hope so!

    I had such hopes as a young person.
    Instead, I’ve spent most of the last almost 40 years, re-fighting for rights gained back in the 60’s.

    I’ve been one of the people trying to maintain at least a holding-pattern on prior gains – or, at least lose as little as we can – until reinforcement can arrive. *
    I’m still waiting…

    *I must admit, though, that the quickness of the Gay Rights gains has practically shocked me!
    I never thought that would happen in my lifetime.

    So, I guess ya nevah know, huh? 🙂

    Keep hope alive!

  3. I figure that public works are easiest, politically, to enact; and either the land use tax or the honest bank hardest. Universal income will probably have some reactionary strings attached.

  4. I had a conversation with a friend when I was a senior in high school about something like this. We were wondering what the soviet union and america would look like 50 years out.our theory was that humans basically all want the same things.we both figured communism would eventually drift towards capitalism, and capitalism would drift towards socialism.a big factor in the discussion was mechanization making many jobs obsolete.the other factor was war between the superpowers would destroy the planet.
    Of course, many jobs have been eliminated via mechanization and out sourcing, and worse yet, the value of labor has crashed.
    Given the direction the economy has taken, the society described in the rolling stone article may well be our future; either that or a mad max / blade runner dystopia.
    I can also envision a society where things are managed like a cruise ship; everything for the upper class is carefully managed and monitored; no true contact with the unwashed masses allowed.
    Several years ago, a man named Fred khavari launched a campaign for the office of governor here in Florida.one of his planks was a state bank. Fred was born in Iran and dare challenge the banking system, so he ran into a brick wall with his campaign.
    I think we will see some changes that would have been hard to imagine even 5 years ago.
    The rapid changes regarding gay marriage and the use of marijuana may be harbingers of other big changes.
    Labor is the milk cow of capitalism, and that cow is stressed to the max.

  5. An honest bank? Isn’t that an oxymoron? I guess in theory it’s possible, but in reality I don’t think such a creature exists. Sorta like a compassionate conservative.

  6. What Newt said, though he didn’t intend to, was that the ‘free market’ can create poverty faster than the government can reverse it. He’s right. Prosperity and opportunity come from a job base and fair wages which the plutocrats have eroded and the government has failed to ensure and enforce.

    When federal employees, especially elected officials, can’t benefit from catering to corporate goals over the welfare of the public, then legislation will emerge which creates jobs here. As far as I am concerned, if you want to do business in the US, you have a job base here, consistent with the size of your economic footprint. If you only want to sell here and not produce here, you will pay for the privilege of basing production in 3rd world countries.

    SS – Nice Jefferson quote…

  7. I remember during the Johnson administration the question circulating in the press was “Guns or Butter”?

  8. erinyes,
    I never thought I’d live to be 30, let alone rapidly approaching 56. I always figured there’d be the day when I’d try to ‘duck and cover,’ and be blown to atomic particles.

    But in many ways, the fall of the USSR was also a death-knell for American labor.

    Without a competing philosophy, capitalism and capitalists went nucking futs.

    At least back when the USSR was around, they were afraid, and paid at least some lip-service and money to the workers.
    F*ck the workers!!!
    Let them follow the jobs, and take whatever crumbs are offered.
    The capitalists can either agree to pay more, or this won’t end in anything but 21st Century tumbrels, guillotines, and heads on sticks – if, IF, people can get past the gates, and the armed police and troops.
    And we just might, because most of those people are “us.”

  9. “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.”

    In other words, no big deal. So let the taxes rise.

    Is that what Newt meant to say? Does he even realize that’s what he was saying? Or is he even stupider than I realized?

  10. Waspuppet,
    “Or is he even stupider than I realized?”

    Newt looks and sounds like a man who’s smart – to a stupid/ignorant person.

  11. Hey guys, $973.00 is the price for a night on the town with dinner at Ruth’s Chris. And I’ve gotta pay for a chauffer if I’m bring a couple of bottles
    of chateau Rothschild from my private cellar; I mean, come on. Ease up on me just a little, you’re cramping my style !

  12. 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.

    That would be the point.

  13. It’s datapoints like this, and the fact that millennials are a lot behind the support of liberal politicians, that gives me hope. It all begins with giving that Overton Window a kick to the left, and so I’m very thankful for Myerson’s shove.

  14. Gee, I want to comment on what an asswipe Gingrich is , but first I have to do my research so that I know what I’m talking about. Maybe some of you might be able to help me out. Here’s my dilemma, I’m trying to decipher this statement:
    The War on Poverty famously began in 1965. From 1965 to 2008, the total spent only on means tested welfare for the poor in 2008 dollars has been nearly $16 trillion, according to a Heritage Foundation study. That has been more than twice all spending on all military conflicts from the American Revolution to today.

    I suppose I could just dismiss the entire statement as nonsense given the fact that it’s according to the Heritage foundation, and that that supposition would be well founded. But I am curious to understand exactly what means tested welfare entails, and what is the relationship to means tested welfare to poverty. I also have difficulty in converting adjusted for inflation 2008 dollars into current 2013 dollars. I’m not sure of the formula to use so that the 16 trillion dollars that Newt cites reflects accurately in the current battle against poverty. And I’m also challenged to understand the relevance of it all.
    The last obstacle I need to clarify in my mind is the idea that somehow that the 16 trillion that has been spent is being accrued to the personal wealth of those who are in poverty. I have this somewhat misguided notion that any monies allocated toward the welfare client or poverty programs is still funneled back in to the economy and should be viewed as a benefit to the nation as a whole. If it goes out in US dollars it come back in US dollars, and never can it be separated by distinction from the US economy.

    Well that’s about it, peeps. If anybody can help me out it would be greatly appreciated.
    Oh, one last thing…When Newt cites the spending on welfare as being twice that of all military spending since the Revolutionary war is he intending that to mean the United States spending on conflicts or all military spending on conflicts? A small point but it could alter my calculations.

  15. Oh, I know this is a petty and juvenile remark, and certainly unbecoming of a liberal…But Callista does bear a resemblance to a kestrel. I know some men like that alert look in a women.

  16. DeBlasio is getting slammed almost continuously by the media but the NY Post in particular was slamming him constantly during the mayoral campaign to no effect.

    Bloomberg made a far more scandalous comment that NY City depended on the spending of the plutocrats, depended mind you. Of course, he didn’t use the word “depended” but his story was that there would be a lot of unemployed waiters without Wall Street.

    Personally, i think Bloomberg understated the issue. There are a lot of unemployed people in the whole country with Wall Street doing its thing and, yes, Bloomberg’s personal wealth has doubled although he won’t state that in his own publications (that was courtesy of Forbes).

  17. Swami, it may depend on how you define war and how you define “means tested” welfare. Social Security, for example, is funded by a combination of employer payments and employee payments. The amount and the length of the contributions determines the amount paid out. Gingrich, I am sure, is counting this as part of his $16 trillion whopper. he may even be counting future payments.

    Newt Gingrich simply took his numbers from a U.S. government funded piece by a Stephen Daggett of the Congressional Research Service. Daggett owns up on the last ppage of his document that inflation figures before 1913 are unreliable. Total costs for both sides of the U.S. Civil War, for example are listed at about $80 billion (inflation adjusted) in 2011 dollars but just $60 billion in 2008 dollars.

    The cost of World War II, on the other hand, actually shrank slightly from 4.114 trillion in 2008 to 4.104 trillion three years later.

    The data printed seems to be pretty much irrational. “Defense spending for both the confederacy and the union ran 11% of GDP. Defense spending in WW I was 14% of GDP and it was 37% in WW II. During Vietnam it was 9% of GDP.

    FWIW, the number of military deaths for these wars was 625,000 for the Civil War; 405,399 for WW II; 116,516 for WW I, and 58,209 for Vietnam.

    According to Daggett, “inflation adjusted” spending for both sides for the Civil War was far less than spending for the very brief Persian Gulf War.

    Personally, I put little confidence in Daggett and even less in Newt, the history professor.

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