WWDD — What Would a Democracy Do?

Crossposted from Imagine Democracy

Here is a question to ask yourself when you are looking at something the government is doing: “Would a democracy do this?”

When cutting regulations (protections) on corporations, “Is this something a real democracy would do?”

If Congress is working on a tax cut, look at it and ask, “Would a real democracy do this?”

A general rule, ask if a democracy would really do it.

Sugar Didn’t Ask To Be Born

From Bojack Horseman. Spoken by Mr. Peanutbutter: “Raven on a wire. A gloomy portent, precariously perched. And, as the sun sets, so does it spread its deathly shadow across the just and unjust of the outdoor seating area of the California Pizza Kitchen.

You come to work, clock in, you put sugar in your coffee, and watch it slowly disappear into nothingness. But the sugar doesn’t know why. Sugar didn’t ask to be born.”

I’m Not Dead

I’m just in a period of reflection.

In this time of Trump the only thing I seem to be able to write would be, “I told you so” and no one wants to hear that. The bloggers were right…

In the meantime I am starting a site (in progress) at http://democracyandcommunity.org/, “Imagine Democracy.”

When I’m dead I’ll post about it here.

Trump’s Brand is Ayn Rand

Robert Reich explains why Ayn Rand’s ideas have destroyed the common good.

“We have to understand who Ayn Rand is so we can reject her philosohpy and dedicate ourselves to rebuilding the common good.”

On Trump’s Steel/Aluminum Tariffs And So-Called “Trade” Generally

I agree with the tariffs, but not the way it is being done. It should have been planned, phased in, coordinated with US industry and, most important, part of a comprehensive US economic/trade/industrial policy. The latter just isn’t going to happen under Trump nor under a Wall Street dominated economy even with Democrats running things.

Trump’s tariff doesn’t come out of nowhere. This is the result of an actual process. It comes after our Commerce Department ruled on a case that started under Obama that China is dumping steel.

Here is an example of the problem. China increased its capacity dramatically during their infrastructure boom (which is how they got through the recession). Then internal demand dropped as the infrastructure projects wrapped up, but the steelmaking capacity continued because they don’t want to lay a lot of people off. So they are selling the steel wherever they can at prices lower than cost. The rest of the world suffers. Esecially the US “rust belt” workers. But also our country’s ability to make steel as needed. Imagine a conflict with China and they cut off steel to us, after this “dumping” has closed what’s left of our production capacity.

From April 2016’s CAF post, The Big Fight Over Chinese Steel,

When China’s growth was very high, and China was building tall buildings and high-speed rail all over the place they needed a lot of steel. Then their economy slowed. Now China is making more steel than they need.

Meanwhile countries around the world are fighting their own slow growth with austerity policies that literally take money out of their economies – like cutting back on infrastructure maintenance and modernization. And their slowing economies mean less steel use.

… So there is less demand for steel in China and around the world. Current global overcapacity is estimated at 700 million tons – more than seven times what U.S. steelmakers can produce. This is expected to get worse.

But Wait, There’s More – Cheap Labor

OK, now the bigger picture. Economists will tell you about the benefits of trade. I should have said Wall Street economists.

“Trade” is supposed to be about “comparative advantage.” This means a region that grows bananas has an advantage doing that compared to Iowa. But Iowa is great at crowing corn. Iowa trades corn for bananas, etc.

However currently discussion of “trade” really just means using “trade” deals for moving American production out of the country to low-wage places. The “comparative advantage” involved is cheap labor. (The factories aren’t even already there, they are moved there.) Wall Street likes to argue the benefits of lower prices resulting from using what amounts to slave labor outside the US but the real benefit they get from this and the rest of the trade regime is pressure on US wages, which means people have to take what they can get (or drive for Uber) and labor cannot demand a larger slice of the pie.

When they say trade agreements “increase trade” remember that moving a factory across a border and bringing the same goods back here “increases trade” because now they cross a border. “Trade”?

Even More – “Expanding Markets”

There is another part of what we call “trade.” They say trade “opens up markets for US goods and services.” As if those markets are not already being served? What it does is open up “markets” for exploitation by the largest, ost powerful competitors, wiping out whatever has developed locally. There AND here. Look at how “trade’ has wiped out OUR textile, electronics, etc producers. And OUR giant monopolies like to use their power to wipe out local industries elsewhere.

So “trade’ is currently being used by giant multinationals to consolidate their power.

It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way. Imagine Democracy.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Imagine if the US had full-employment policies, so everyone who wants a job has one. This is in fact easily done.

Imagine a democracy with rule of law and sensible coherent structures for determining policy. (Those policies would include breaking up monopolies and reducing the power of big companies.)

Imagine a government that offers a job to anyone who wants one, with reasonable above-poverty pay and benefits. There is so much that needs doing, like child care, elder care, retrofitting buildings to be energy efficient, fixing up parks, teaching — you know, the list of things that a democracy would put resources into to make people’s lives better.

So imagine a system where everyone has the ability to get by, and the opportunity to do work that does good. Imagine how jobs would change if employers had to compete to get people to do the jobs they need done. That competition would involve offering jobs that actually do make the world a better place, because people would be able to choose to do that.

This Creates A New Economic Problem – A NEED To Outsource Production

Never mind the societal reckoning full employment policies would bring, with its higher wages, increases in labor’s power, etc. (That’s another discussion…) There would be a new economic problem: Our economy would have trouble finding enough labor to get things done. In other words, the economy would be prevented from running at full capacity by a demand for labor. What to do?

THEN it makes economic sense to move production elsewhere. But then it could be done non-exploitively, bringing higher pay and prosperity to the places we outsource to as well as here. Then trade becomes the benefit it is supposed to be, benefitting everyone. This is how democracies would do it.

And immigration. (But that’s also another discussion.)

In an economy designed to be of, by and for We the People outsourcing production could be good for everyone.

Imagine an economy designed to be of, by and for We the People. Wow.

Republican Deficit Fear Strategy

Driving up deficits and then using deficit fear to stop spending on things that We the People want and need has been open Republican strategy since Reagan. Google “strategic deficits.”

Tom Wicker explained in the NY Times in 1985, in IN THE NATION; A Deliberate Deficit,

To hear Larry Speakes tell it, President Reagan emerged from anesthesia righteously demanding action on the budget deficit ”this week.” That sounds fine – except that it now appears that the deficit was deliberately created by Mr. Reagan in order to do away with Democratic social programs dating back to the New Deal.

Who says so? David Stockman, the departing Budget Director, at second hand, and Friedrich von Hayek directly. He’s the Nobel Prize-winning economist who’s been a guru of Reaganomics.

… After the Budget Director’s resignation last week, Senator Moynihan of New York said Mr. Stockman had told him that even in 1981 Mr. Reagan knew the tax cuts would mean loss of revenue, but that the President had accepted the resulting rise in the deficit in order to bring pressure on Congress to cut spending.

That sharply contradicts what Mr. Reagan then publicly argued – that cutting taxes would expand the economic base and increase revenues. In his 1980 campaign, he even contended that the increase in revenues resulting from the tax cut would pay for the military buildup he also planned.

But Mr. Moynihan said Mr. Stockman had told him that in 1981, ”the plan was to have a strategic deficit that would give you an argument for cutting back the programs that weren’t desired. It got out of hand.”

Reagan used tax cuts and spending increases to goose the economy. A good economy gets votes. Then under Dems the entire Republican media machine blasted us with deficit/debt fear to force cuts in the things government does to make people’s lives better. Cuts are bad for the economy (and people), so voters not happy with Dems.

So everything people think they uderstand about deficits and debt is just the result of decades Republican “family budget around kitchen table” propaganda.

REPUBLICANS understand this and use it. The Federal budet is NOT like a family budget.

Republicans understand our government issues its own currency. It CAN NOT go “bankrupt” because it can just issue more currency. It CAN NOT “go broke.” We can issue currency to pay for the things We the People want and need. The additional currency is money in the economy.

If we issue too much currency (too much money in the economy) we end up with inflation. So taxes soak up the excess.

Taxes are not “revenue” that is used to “pay for” spending. Taxes are useful to redistribute, rebalance the economy.

Taxes redistribute and rebalance. Is inequality rising? Raise taxes on the rich. Are billionaires and corporations exerting influence on government? Tax them back down to size. Etc.

Deficit fear is just a tool to move votes to Republicans, make the rich richer and keep We the People down.

This post is based on this Twitter thread.

Deficit Fear

Deficit fear is a gimmick to limit the benefits of democracy, used by people who oppose government. By scaring people about deficits they undermine support for government doing things to make our lives better.

But when it comes to their own spending priorities – military, etc. – the sky is the limit. They get it. They understand that deficits are not a problem, but are to be used to scare the public.

The US issues its own money. It can spend as much as it wants to on things that make our lives better. Taxes are NOT “revenue” that is used to fund things. (Note that this is federal, not state budgets. States do not issue their own currencies.)

Taxes limit inflation and redistribute the gains of the economy. Tax cuts for the rich redistribute to the top, making inequality worse.

Deficits grow the economy, with inflation being the concern if too much $$ is pushed at too few resources.

This is known academically as “Modern Monetary Theory.”

More at We CAN Have Nice Things

Holiday Card From The Johnsons

Happy Holidays from the Johnsons:

That’s our dog Paddington.

The back of the card:
Published by Sudeep Johnson
Doggie Paw Cards, Inc.
www.doggiepawcards.com
Many thanks to Paddington the little white dog, without whom this card would not have been possible.

Here is last year’s: Holiday Card From The Johnsons. (That card has a link to the previous year’s, which has a link to the previous year’s, etc…)

Evil Men With Racist Views

A song back in style

Have you heard it on the news
About this fascist groove thang
Evil men with racist views
Spreading all across the land
Don’t just sit there on your ass
Unlock that funky chaindance
Brothers, sisters shoot your best
We don’t need this fascist groove thang
Brothers, sisters, we don’t need this fascist groove thang

History will repeat itself
Crisis point we’re near the hour
Counterforce will do no good
Hot you ass I feel your power
Hitler proves that funky stuff
Is not for you and me girl
Europe’s an unhappy land
They’ve had their fascist groove thang

Brothers, sisters, we don’t need this fascist groove thang

Democrats are out of power
Across that great wide ocean
Reagan’s president elect
Fascist God in motion
Generals tell him what to do
Stop your good time dancing
Train their guns on me and you
Fascist thang advancing

Brothers, sisters, we don’t need this fascist groove thang

Sisters, brothers lend a hand
Increase our population
Grab that groove thang by the throat
And throw it in the ocean
You’re real tonight you move my soul
Let’s cruise out of the dance war
Come out your house and dance your dance
Shake that fascist groove thang
(shake it!)