28 July 2011

Myths, reality, and non-despair for progressives

I am hardly alone in being absolutely flummoxed by the one-sidedness of the media coverage of the so-called debt crisis. Not to mention the unbelievable supinity of the Democrats, and especially the president, in capitulating, not only to policy extortion by the Rightists at every turn, but to the very framing of the issue by them.

Look, it’s quite simple. As Zaid Jilani writes in thinkprogress.com [here]... if we were to simply get beyond the mythology of Washington, which is totally beholden to the interests of the richest Americans and corporations, and restore the tax code of the 1960s (adjusted for inflation), the debt would disappear in a trice, and we would have plenty of money to rebuild our infrastructure and restore full employment. These are simple economic facts, of which I am confident that if the American people were told the truth in plain English, there would be overwhelming support for just this change. 

The entire concept that we have a "debt crisis," or that we can't afford the basic programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, still less the major infrastructure and renewable energy investments that we desperately need to restore our economy to full jobs and productivity, is just false. These statements, which you shamefully hear from Democrats as well as Republicans, and which are all over the media as if they were self-evident truths, are, in fact, deliberate lies, which would only be true if preceded by the qualifying clause, "If we absolutely must keep the enormous disparity of income and lopsided tax system favoring big corporations and the super-rich intact as it currently is...."   But Progressives, and especially our supposedly Progressive president, need to say this: "No, that's not so... we can easily afford these things if only we change the unfair system in place now and make Big Corporations and the Super-Rich pay their fair share."

But the other overriding reality is that in 1955 the top 400 Americans had an average income of $13 million in 2007 dollars and paid 52% of it in Federal Income Tax. In 2007 (the most recent year for which figures are available), the richest 400 had an average income of $170 million and paid less than 15% of it in taxes. These people, and the corporations they run, own the government and manipulate it for their interests. Only when the People take to the streets and demand change will there be change, because this, i.e., nonviolent struggle, is the only effective way to battle entrenched control of political systems, as Gene Sharp, the guru of nonviolent struggle, has masterfully explained. But it’s also true, as in 1933-34, that when things get blatant enough and bad enough,  the tenor of politics can change in a very short time, so there’s no reason for despair.

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