Sunday, September 03, 2006

Republicans & Democrats Enjoying Labor Day Weekend Together

Kevin Drum writes:
PITCHFORKS AND TORCHES....Brad DeLong says something worth starting a conversation over:

When I read Paul [Krugman's] call for "smart, bold populism," I am reminded of earlier calls a couple of decades ago by Milton Friedman, Marty Feldstein, and their ilk for smart, bold conservatism or smart, bold libertarianism. But they did not get what they ordered: on the economic policy front the policies of Reagan and of Bush II have been a horrible botch. What populist policies that we can think of would be smart? And how can we make our high politicians allergic to populist policies that are stupid?

I would have agreed with this 15 years ago. And I am enough of a temperamental moderate to agree with it still — emotionally, anyway.

But one has to respond to reality, no? And given the current political and economic climate in the United States, what are the odds that David Sirota will succeed in leading howling mobs onto the streets with pitchforks and torches? About zero, right?

The reality is that, in a way that's invisible to most Americans, the economy has gotten fantastically out of kilter over the past quarter century. Bill Clinton did a little bit to get it heading back in the right direction, but he didn't do enough and he didn't have much time to do it. Eight years out of the past 26 was too little to make a serious dent.

So what to do? We now have an enormous tide to swim against, and let's face it: sober, incremental, smart rhetoric just isn't going to change things. Incendiary rhetoric, by contrast, might — and discomfiting though it may be, it's hardly likely to lead to incendiary policy. We don't live in Weimar Germany. Sure, a few stupid policies are bound to emerge from all the talk, but more likely it will merely succeed in scaring a few people into turning the battleship a few degrees.

None of this means that serious economists like Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong should deliberately advocate stupid policies, or even that they should refrain from criticizing stupid policies. Nonetheless, we desperately need radically more attention paid to full employment policies; to labor organization in service industries; to the distributional inequities of free trade policies; to national healthcare; and to significantly more progressive taxation. It seems unlikely to me that we can get it without a sea change in public opinion, and that won't happen without breaking a few eggs.

I probably won't be one of the egg breakers. Not my style. Maybe Brad and Paul won't be either. But I'm willing to sit back and let other people do it without kibitzing too much.

Unless, of course, someone comes up with a realistic alternative that can still produce serious change. So far, no one has.

In response, one of Drum's readers writes:
I like that Kevin, unhinged, reveals what he wants America to look like.

Line by line:

Nonetheless, we desperately need radically more attention paid to full employment policies;

Make work for those too lazy or unskilled to obtain actual employment in the economy.

to labor organization in service industries;

Not enough people are unionizing to suit Kevin Drum. They should be forced, because democrats know what's good for them.

to the distributional inequities of free trade policies;

We should prevent free trade and accept inferior goods, because a factory somewhere in Ohio closed. Note that Kevin's goals work against themselves; if it wasn't for wasteful unions making it impossible to fire bad employees, it would still make sense to buy American goods.

to national healthcare;

Prevent people from seeing a doctor by subjecting them to a massive federal bueracracy.

and to significantly more progressive taxation.



Posted by: American Hawk on September 2, 2006 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

We have very different ideas about who "the most productive citizens" are.

Last time that I looked, there were the same 24 hours in the day for all people, and those who Republicans think are the "most productive" live off the labor of others. The labor of most poor and middle class workers would lay out the dividend-receivers after 3 hours, if they even got that far.

Add to that the labor of women whose days include more hours of labor than their male partners (or ex-partners) making sure that the house is running smoothly, the children have clean clothes and shoes that fit, and everyone is eating healthily.

Explain to me how a fired CEO's labor at a company that manufactures a pair of Nikes that cost 28 cents to produce but cost the consumer $220 is worth a severance of more than $8 million, including two years' salary at $1.4 million a year and a bonus of at least $1.76 million for 2006? [Nike also will buy the former CEO's house for $3.6 million, which covers remodeling and furnishing costs.]

We all know that this is hardly the exception to corporate salaries, perqs and golden parachutes.

This nation (and the rich class) was built on the exploitation of people who performed back-breaking labor because they had no other choice or options, and it continues today. Nobody leaves their family, their friends, their homelands to risk their lives walking hundreds of miles through deserts (or cross oceans in steerage) to pick vegetables or clean somebody else's toilets (or lay rail or brick, or pick cotton) unless they are desperate.

Time knows no class - an hour is an hour to everyone. It's just ducky that you (Republicans) have figured out a way for your lazy asses to do less for more, but you still have to eat (and that food has to be grown, picked, shipped, prepared by somebody), you still have to wear clothing (which has to be made by somebody), you still have to live in shelter (which has to be built by somebody). We're all in this life together, swapping services to survive, but Republicans seem to think that they've achieved everything on their own.

Happy Labor Day, Ds and Rs!

1 comment:

Jersey Cynic said...

Great post! I'm a big fan of a progressive income tax. The great wealth divide has definitely become far to wide. I'm seeing this first hand as I prepare my first of 3 children to get into a college. Very soon, only the wealthy class will be able to afford to attend college. I sure hope we see some changes in our lifetime. I don't feel to confident that we will if the majority of people remain as complacent as they are.

I have my pitchfork -- and I am ready to report for duty. I have a feeling this will be the only way to bring about much needed changes across the board. If the common class in this country does not wake up IMMEDIATELY, it will just get worse by the minute. Lately, everyday I seem to be saying "just when I thought I've heard it all"