Older Democrats Learned The Wrong Lessons From Nixon and Reagan

In today’s news, Biden promises not to use the power he has to make people’s lives better, and boost the economy.

“…it’s arguable that the president may have the executive power to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt,” Biden said. “Well, I think that’s pretty questionable. I’m unsure of that. I’d be unlikely to do that.”

Biden does, in fact, have that power. He’s saying he will not use it.

My observation from watching this crap for so long is that there is a generation of Democratic politicians who learned terrible, wrong lessons from Nixon/McGovern and then Reagan and the rise of the “conservative” propaganda machine. They got beat up so bad and still don’t really understand what happened to them and are still cowering from doing anything that might provoke another beating.

Back then the Democratic party had been riding on the FDR (plus Medicare & Great Society) wave of Dem goodwill for so long that they let the structures and understandings that support political action atrophy. So along came a billionaire-and-corporate-funded conservative movement machine that understood marketing, and how to neutralize opposition, etc, and just wiped the floor with them.

Please don’t hit me again!

What those Dems unfortunately learned was not to do anything that could let them be accused of being “communists” or “soft on crime” or “taxing and spending” or “weak on defense” etc. (They also learned never to put on a protective helmet and ride in a tank.) They learned not to do or say anything that might trigger another beating. They especially learned not to ever propose doing things that help the public & is good for society because it will be portrayed as helping minorities.

They firmly believe that anything any Democrat does to help working people, the general public and society in general will be “portrayed” in a bad way that elects more Republicans, and they see it as their mission to stop any Dem from doing so. Lest they receive another beating. They always have to get the abuser’s permission to do anything. (They call that bipartisanship.)

Biden, Pelosi, Feinstein and so many others are representative of what I’m talking about.

Protectionism, Trade and Democracy

This post originated at Imagine Democracy

“Protectionism” literally means we, as a nation, protect our national interests. It is one more word that has been twisted to make people think it’s a bad thing, like “entitlement” (the things we are entitled to as citizens in a democracy) or “welfare” (people in a democracy making each others’ lives better.)

“Trade” is about competitive advantages. It used to mean one region can grow bananas and another can grow corn, and by trading they each end up with both bananas and corn in their kitchens. (Good.) Today, though, it means authoritarian governments have the “competitive advantage” of allowing slavery and pollution so their factories can make things for less. So (the executives of) big corporations move production there, then squeeze the remaining workforce here with threats to move their jobs as well if they won’t lower their standard of living. (Bad.) All the gains of that “trade” are passed to a few already-wealthy owners and managers of that means of production. They use some of the gains to influence our laws to allow them to do this.

A democracy obviously would consider its people’s standard of living an interest worth “protecting” and would never allow businesses to influence lawmaking.

Trade can be done a different way but that requires democratic governance. Economists (used to) tell us that society gained from trade because making the economy more “efficient” by moving production to lower-cost regions frees up resources, providing increased investment and general prosperity; better infrastructure, higher pay and more free time for everyone in the society. And the production moved to the lower pay area means jobs and investment there, so they also move up that same ladder to increased investment and prosperity. That assumption depended on viewing society as liberal democracies capable of making and enforcing rules that would pass these gains on to everyone.

The failure of our country to maintain itself as a democracy has resulted in the allowance of trade with slavers and polluters, resulting in the extreme inequality we see. Thereby enabling further squeezing of workers and environment here. It also incentivizes authoritarian governments to allow slavery and pollution.

The solution to this, and so many other problems, is, of course, to remove the influence of money from our political system.

Take What Happened Very, Very Seriously

This post originally appeared at Imagine Democracy.

People don’t want to say that Republicans attempted a “coup” but they certainly attempted to overturn the clear results of a democratic election. They tried to end our democracy, right in front of our eyes.

The election was almost “close enough to overturn.”

The Democrat received (the counting is not finished) over 6 million more votes but it was “close.” This is because our 18th-century electoral college system, designed to keep the “slave states” happy, does not belong in the 21st century.

If Republicans had blocked a few more people who couldn’t get birth certificates, etc. from voting…

If Republicans had been able to close a few more polling places…

If they had taken away a few more ballot drop-boxes…

If Republican had scared just a few more people…

If Republicans had told just a few more lies…

If the USPS had delayed a few more ballots…

If just a bit fewer Democrats had voted…

they very well might have gotten away with it.

Take what happened very, very seriously. Because they tried. Right in front of our eyes.

And if we don’t take steps to do something about this, next time they will do … just that bit more.

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.