Democratic Populism -v- Sanders


Ok. I’m burying myself this evening. I’ve had some comeback. Get specific, comes the cry. Compare what you say Democrats should offer going forward with what Bernie Sanders offered.

Oh Lordy. In for a penny. This is not definitive. This is as if I was having a preliminary conversation. Along the lines of. Trump is an awful human being. But, 62 million American voters are not all monsters. Some of them voted for what his campaign offered. So. What might a halfway point between Trump and Sanders look like?

I’m not going to tackle everything. But let’s look at what Sanders said was his platform on Wealth and Inequality.

My starting point is this. We are not born equal. I have talents. They are not the same as yours. I believe we should offer equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

Essentially, of all the economic systems available, I believe that free market capitalism is the least disastrous – which would be my first departure point from Sanders. Thing is, as someone much cleverer than me once said, capitalism is destructive creationism. Or something like that.

In order to stay up-to-date, capitalism constantly destroys, in order to recreate. Where we Democrats need to distinguish ourselves from the purist neo-liberals is to do more to make the transitions palatable and dignified.

Barack Obama is my very favorite President ever. He instituted a $900 billion economic stimulus package. That should have been more than enough candy to provide transition to proper job recovery. It wasn’t. We need to study why.

Although I believe essentially in free market capitalism, I also believe that, right now, we need to say to working Americans, we went too far, too fast. We’re going to put the brakes on. Hefty dose of temporary protectionism and isolationism. To give communities time to adjust.

Maybe save the odd uneconomic factory. Give folks time to retrain, re-educate. At their pace. Not ours. Encourage mutualism. Shift resources from nation-building abroad to nation-building at home.

On the subject of folks not being equal. Yeah. Make sure everyone is paying their fair share of taxes. But stop punishing people for being who they are. Greedy people are greedy. Folks without a job do not get thrills because we kick a banker in the groin. They get a thrill when we create a job for them.

And now, to Sanders’ shopping list. By the numbers:

1) Fair share tax burden – yup. Stop corporations shifting jobs, profits overseas – yup. I am totally opposed to progressive taxation. It doesn’t produce more money. It doesn’t alleviate hardship for those who are just getting by. It’s just jealousy. Same thing with estate tax. Stay focused on jobs. How do you enact a tax on speculators? Leave greedy bastards to be greedy bastards. They will always find a way. Focus government resources on allowing ordinary folks the opportunity to design an economic system for them. With a dignified safety net for those who cannot compete in the system.

2) Minimum wage. Sterile. Dicate a minimum wage. With safeguards for businesses who cannot afford. Whereby the federal government subsidizes. I don’t see that in Sanders’ prescription. My ‘FOCUS on Poverty’ proposal from 2008 suggested that every man, woman and child in the US should have adequate access to housing, food, clothing and healthcare – Consider a basic living income. To be guaranteed by government. In 2008, I suggested $20,000 per family unit. A professor of economics from UNC-Chapel Hill told me the figures were sound.

3) Infrastructure – yup.

4) Protectionism – at least temporary – yup.

5) Youth employment program. Palliative. But ok.

6) Pay equality – yup.

7) Free college tuition. Boring. If I have to choose between jobs for ordinary Americans, many of whom do not want to go to college, and paying for college for those who, I’m sorry, can earn enough to pay it back, then I choose the former. This is one of the primary areas where we lost focus. Too many ordinary workers said, who cares about free college education for liberal elites?

8) Expanding Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income above $250,000. Boring. Too many unemployed folk in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania regard $250,000 as a goldmine. Focus.

9) Single payer healthcare system. Save your energy. Every single healthcare system in the world has problems. At least those countries with a large and aging population and too few workers coming online. The problem is not the system. It is the money to pay for it. The government has to step up and find the resources to fund. Whether it is UK/NHS-style. Or insurance premium-funded. Can’t do that with 1,000 military bases abroad.

10) Paid family leave, sick leave, etc. Boring. Focus. Priorities. People without a job don’t care. This is a sop to unions. Or those who used to be unionized.

11) Childcare/pre-kindergarten. The second biggest reason we lost ordinary Americans. Who cares?

12) Easier to join unions. No. Yesterday’s issue. New world. In the long-term, we have to compete. In the short-term, create a cocoon to allow ordinary Americans the opportunity to create the systems they feel will allow them best to compete in the world, at a pace that is dignified for them. Let ordinary folk do the designing. Not union leaders. Just another layer of ‘elite’ telling folks what is best for them.

13) Break up huge financial institutions. Blah, blah. Too big to fail. Blah, blah. No. Just commit not to bail them out. If this is about self-design. Let ordinary folk design their economic system. And greedy rich people design theirs. Make sure everyone contributes to taxes fairly. And apportion government resources (i.e. taxpayers’ dollars) where most needed and useful.

Er. That’s a start.


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