Imagine Economic Democracy

This post first appeared at the Imagine Democracy blog.

We don’t have to “bring back jobs from China.” Economists explain that exporting low-level jobs and automating free up resources so “we” can have more $ and free time. And places climbing the jobs ladder get jobs.

The problem is how “we” are distributing the gains. Right now a company ships jobs away or automates and a few already-wealthy people in charge of the company get all of the gains. The workers a shit out of luck. They lose homes, etc.

AND on top of that the owners of companies use those job losses to break unions, etc, forcing wages down. “Shut up and accept the pay cut or we’ll fire you.”

Imagine Democracy

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Imagine if “we” all shared the gains, and received more $ and free time. And as those other countries automate, etc., they also get more $ and free time.

What we need is democracy (aka “socialism”,) so we can GET that $ and free time.

Imagine if we had an economic system designed to be of, by and for We the People, where we require that automation and job exports mean those economic gains go to US – We the people – instead of an already-wealthy few.

A company improves efficiency by automating, etc., and the gains go into a fund. As all the companies do this, the fund provides income to working people. People get the same pay and reduced hours because the efficiencies mean there is less work to do. Or they can move up the ladder to more-skilled jobs for more pay.

In other words, imagine democracy

Means Testing Sucks

In a democracy government should be for everyone equally. If we’re going to have a program just give it to everyone, not just a few people. Limiting like that breeds resentment, of course, but the resentment is the correct reaction because limiting like that is just wrong.

It’s humiliating to have to prove you are poor enough to qualify for a government program, plus the masses of forms you have to fill out require huge bureaucracies to check. There is an assumption you’re trying to cheat. Means testing also sets up people to be ostracized as “Takers”. It tells the non-poor that the government is not for them, they just have to pay for it.

I could go on.

No wonder everyone hates the older generation of Democrats. Well-meaning, but they did this. Social Security, Medicare, even roads and bridges should have been the guide. Everyone deserves the things government does to make our lives better.

We Need Regulation Compliance Assistance Agencies

Along the lines of the voter assistance agency idea I posted the other day, here is something that I’ve wondered about since I had a business.

Government makes rules and regulations to protect the people and environment. But the compliance can be difficult and cost money. So people responsible for operating a business are left in this situation of not just having to run the business but also having to deal with all of that, too. It really can be “burdensome,” especially for smaller businesses.

Shouldn’t governments that regulate also have a function like some kind of Regulation Compliance Assistance Agency? The mission would be to help businesses comply and even assist with the costs if needed. The agency would send people familiar with the regulatory environment and requirements into the business to do the work and interact with the regulators until the job is done. They would help with any compliance costs in cases where the business was not intentionally cutting corners.

If the idea is that we need regulations to protect people, then clearly this would further that idea by getting the businesses complying as quickly and easily as possible? Why just put out some rule and then expect all the businesses to fix problems on their own. This necessarily creates anti-govt resentment.

It’s a win-win. The mission to get the public protected is achieved. Businesses are stronger for it. People can appreciate that govt is supposed to make our lives better.

We Need A Federal Voter Assistance Agency

This post originally appeared at Imagine Democracy.

We need a Federal Voter Assistance Agency.

The Federal Voter Assistance Agency’s mission would be to reinforce democracy by getting every citizen registered and empowered to vote. This would include helping people get registered, helping them vote, and helping people overcome suppression efforts like Voter-ID laws.

The agency would conduct outreach, even door-to-door, to let people know they need to be registered, hep them register, and help them vote.

The agency would also fight voter suppression by doing things like helping people in voter-ID states get the correct ID. This would include an online service to get valid birth certificates and everything else people need (for free) to get the necessary ID in their state. For those who can’t get things like birth certificates for various reasons the agency’s mission would include doing the research necessary to get birth documentation to get their ID. (Free, as a service to democracy.)

An idea like this couldn’t get through the Senate NOW (nothing Democrats pass can), but it educates the public about the possibilities of government being on their side again.

It also puts it out there for when Democrats do have the power to pass it.

Democracy and Corruption

I wrote this in May, June 2017 but it was never published. I’m getting around to posting it now.

How Did Trump Happen To Us?

How did Trump happen to us?

We are experiencing a shock and awe attack. Every single day we face a flood of terrible things being pushed at us so fast that we do not have time to react. Our system and commons and norms and standards and protections and rule of law are rapidly being dismantled. We are overwhelmed, exhausted, our spirits wear down, we don’t know what to do. Worse, the country risks normalization and eventual acceptance of the cruelty and insanity coming from the top.

Will we get out of this? With the nuclear codes in the hands of a crazy, egomaniacal, racist, malignant narcissist, will we live another year? If we’re alive will we be in jail?

Continue reading

Who Are We To Object To What Putin Is Doing?

There are people who say, “The US has been and is doing bad things all over the world. It interfered with Russia’s elections. It bombs people. It overthrows governments.” Etc.

The United States interferes with elections in other countries. It has overthrown governments in other countries, bombed and even nuked other countries, supported brutal regimes, etc. It has committed genocide against Native Americans, held slaves, enforced an apartheid, made people of color second-class citizens, fought unions and kept wages low, allowed terrible environmental destruction, tortured people … and done a lot of things we are all against.

In general that United States has done everything it can to keep We the People here and everywhere down and under the thumb of a wealthy few.

So who are we to object to what Putin has done and is doing?

Wait, Did WE Do That?

But is that United States that does those things OUR country? Did “we” do those things?

The instances of the US doing these kinds of things here and elsewhere have been when our democracy is undermined, corrupted, manipulated by anti-democracy moneyed interests for their own gain.

That isn’t “US.”

The United State is under the control of a wealthy few anti-democracy plutocrats who OPPOSE what the “We the People’ Constitution stands for. That is the bad version of the United States that progressives fight, now and historically.

Trump is the leader of THAT United States and he is aligned with Putin to make things even worse for We the People.

WE did not go to war in Iraq, we were against it. WE are not helping Israel suppress the Palestinians, we are against that. WE are not helping the Saudis bomb Yemen, we are against that. WE did not support apartheid, we fought it.

We the People of the United States have not decided we should do these things. We the people just want a better life and the freedom to make our decisions over how our government should operate – and every time that actually happens things get better for people, more equal, more just.

What Trump was and is doing — with Putin’s Russia by his side — is to further promote this very undermining of the “We the People” democracy that we fight for.

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.

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.