I was on a hike the other day with a good friend, and on the way down, we ended up talking politics. Specifically, “why can’t a liberal state like Oregon just pass laws showing that liberal policies work?” my friend asked.
A good question. For as everyone who cares about this country (or about the quality of their own/family life) knows, liberal economic policies work:
- Social Security and Medicare ensure that seniors in America can retire with dignity without having to worry about a crash on Wall Street or some other economic calamity.
- Medicaid ensures that poor Americans don’t die for lack of medical care—and, that hospitals and doctors receive at least some compensation when they fulfill their oath to heal the sick and save lives.
- To this end, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has expanded health coverage to millions of Americans.
- Unions allow workers to bargain with their employers for fair wages and benefits, and in so doing, raise compensation for everyone who works for a living.
- Food Stamps, WIC, and other welfare programs give the poor and downtrodden a chance to get back on their feet.
- Finally, regulating commerce with common sense laws that prevent dangerous and/or irresponsible practices by business and industry, protects consumers, workers, and the economy at large.
Liberal economic policies work. Could some of our handouts and safety net be made more efficient? Yes. But as I showed in an earlier post, there is very little fraud and waste now—certainly no where near the waste that goes on in a lot of private industries. And frankly, if Republicans were willing to work with Democrats to make US Domestic Spending as efficient as possible—instead of constantly attacking the social safety net—there would certainly be less fraud and waste.*
On the flip side, we know through personal experience, recent history, and what the data tells us, that conservative economic policies do not work:
- Deregulating industries, such as Wall Street, does not create more jobs or increase wages—rather, it helps a handful of fantastically wealthy people get more fantastically wealthy, and inevitably ends in a meltdown of the economy due to fraud, graft, and/or corruption.
- Cutting taxes, especially when it’s done for corporations or the wealthy, doesn’t work. It doesn’t create more jobs, nor does it raise wages, and the lost revenue robs us of the opportunity to invest in schools, infrastructure, and other public industries and services owned and operated for the benefit of all Americans.
- Giving massive tax subsidies to transnational corporations, like the oil industry, or to companies who ship manufacturing jobs overseas, doesn’t work.
- This has been done through free trade agreements—and it doesn’t work. The net result is that we lose jobs, drive down wages for those that remain, and cede our nation’s sovereignty.
Conservative economic policies do not work. Is it important that taxes aren’t too high? Of course. And is it important that businesses—especially small businesses—aren’t over-regulated? Absolutely. But that’s not what today’s Republicans argue; instead, they argue that tax cuts, deregulation, etc., are always good. And that is just not true.
Indeed, in the last 30 years, wages have been stagnant, individual and family debt has risen, and the middle class has deteriorated, to the point where 47 percent of Americans recently said they couldn’t pay for an unexpected $400 expense. Seriously—that’s a tire blowing out, one of your kids breaking their arm, or getting hit in the parking lot—and almost half of all Americans can’t pay for it.
One way would be to get a better job, but since 1978, the cost of college has increased an astronomical 1,120%, so that our nation now boasts around 40 million Americans who collectively owe $1.2 trillion in student debt. This explosion in the cost of college has led to two tragic realities: 1) a college degree is often not worth the money it costs, and 2) a huge number of young, hard working Americans are stuck under the burden of their student loans—loans that have high interest rates and can’t be refinanced or forgiven via bankruptcy. As a result, many young Americans cannot afford to buy a house, a car, or even move out of their parent’s basement; and that’s not just their problem—according to no less than the Wall Street Journal, it drags down the entire economy.
The culprit is conservative economics: in the last 30 years, we’ve seen taxes cuts, subsidies, and loopholes created for the rich and large corporations, which has led to less government investment in infrastructure and education. Over this same period of time, lobbyists have convinced Washington to deregulate industry and pave the way for companies to ship jobs overseas. And if that wasn’t enough, Republicans have attacked unions at every level of government, especially in states where they control the legislature. The result: fewer good paying jobs and downward pressure on wages.
Now, the good news is that these are choices, not an inescapable destiny… which brings us back to the question: why can’t a state like Oregon pass laws showing that liberal economic policies work?
Because sometimes Democrats don’t act like Democrats. In fact, very little of the damage done to the national economy would have been possible if it weren’t for Democrats joining with Republicans to pass their shitty economic policies. Look no further than President Clinton, who worked with Republicans to pass NAFTA in 1993. The results have been disastrous. Clinton also worked with Republicans to pass the Telecommunications Act of 1996, deregulating radio, television, cable, and the internet, resulting in a massive consolidation of media ownership. Want to know why Comcast is such an awful, soul sucking corporation? That bill had a lot to do with it. Make no mistake: Republicans wanted these bills, and most Democrats opposed them—but instead of using his veto pen, Clinton signed them into law.
Fast forward to today and we still have Democrats that don’t act like Democrats. And unfortunately, my state, Oregon, is a perfect example. Recently, three of our four Democratic Representatives (Susan Bonamichi, Kurt Schrader—aka Schrader the traitor—and Earl Blumenauer), and one of our Senators (Ron Wyden), voted for the TPA: a so-far secret trade bill written by large, transnational corporations that will ship jobs overseas and cede US sovereignty to a secret court that’s set up specifically to pay corporations taxpayer money if our laws infringe on their profits.
These Oregon Democrats joined 191 Republicans in the House to pass the bill, and Wyden joined 47 Republicans in the Senate. What’s sad is that if the Oregon delegation, along with a small group of other “Democrats” hadn’t voted for the TPA, it wouldn’t be happening. Arguably, Wyden himself could’ve stopped it, because it takes 60 votes to do anything in the Senate, and the yes votes were exactly 60 in this case.
Make no mistake: the TPP, or transpacific partnership, is classic conservative economics. It will trade US sovereignty and jobs for an increase in corporate profits. It’s NAFTA all over again.
OK, OK, but what about Oregon as a state—what about the legislature? Can’t they institute liberal economics and show the country a way out of our economic mess?
No, we can’t—again, because we have too many Democrats that don’t act like Democrats. Once again this fall, Oregon students will have class sizes that are too large along with one of the shortest school years in the country, because Oregon’s Legislature, with it’s Senate, House, and Governor’s Mansion controlled by Democrats, couldn’t find more funding. The Democrats in the Oregon also didn’t bother to pass an increase in the minimum wage, or address our tax system, which is too regressive and doesn’t collect enough revenue. And they didn’t increase funding for transportation or infrastructure either.
Now to be fair, Oregon’s legislature did do a lot of good things, such as requiring background checks on private gun sales, paid sick leave for all employees, and automatically registering voters through the DMV.
But none of the big issues—schools, wages, or infrastructure—were addressed. And this, again, in a state with large majorities of Democrats in total control of state government.
And so we’re left with one question: why? Why don’t Democrats act like Democrats?
The answer is money. Because money in politics wins 95% of the time. It’s the massive amount of money spent on elections and lobbying in Washington. Think about this: in the 2016 Presidential Election alone, it’s estimated the candidates and Super Pacs will spend up to $5 billion. Think that money doesn’t have an effect?
Go look at the people who voted for the TPP in the Senate—those votes were bought quite literally. According to a recent story in The Guardian, the average Republican received almost $20,000 “from corporate TPP supporters.” The average Democrat received almost $10,000. And three Democrats who were holding out (Ron Wyden, Patty Murray, and Michael Bennet)—whose votes were needed for the bill to pass—got over $100,000 together in campaign donations from TPP supporters. That’s out and out corruption. And a lot of these are foreign and transnational corporations bribing our government. Some of them don’t even pay US taxes.
So what do we do?
- Become single issue voters—regardless of party, no American should vote for a candidate that does not support a Constitutional Amendment stating that corporations are not people and that money is not speech. In the 2016 election and beyond, we should vote ONLY for those candidates who will pledge to get money out of politics. Go to movetoamend.org and sign the petition.
- Punish the bad actors. If the TPP passes—especially if they vote for the final bill—I won’t be supporting Wyden, Bonamichi, Schrader, or Blumenauer. I will vote for their opponents in the primary, and if they win that I won’t vote for them in the general election; instead, I’ll choose a third party candidate. But wait, if everyone did that, a Republican could win. That’s right—but I’d rather have a Republican in that office than a Democrat that acts like a Republican, because in the next election, it gives voters a chance to elect a real Democrat: one who will pledge to get money out of politics, and who will represent their constituents rather than corporate donors.
- Remember: though it is frustrating that some Democrats don’t act like Democrats, the real enemy here is corporate money and Republican economics. Conservative economics DO NOT WORK, and anyone who supports those kinds of policies needs to go. So yes, it sucks that some Democrats inevitably support conservative economics, but nearly all Republicans do—so it’s still the case that 95% of the time, a Democrat is going to be the lesser of two evils.
- The only exception to this strategy is the Presidency. In this case, even a corporate Democrat, like Obama, is better than a Republican. My guess is that Hillary, the likely nominee, supports getting money out of politics anyway, but even if she doesn’t, the damage that a Republican President could do in four years to this country isn’t worth the trade-off.
- VOTE! And make sure everyone you know votes too. Yes, money is a powerful enemy in US politics, but at the end of the day, every politician in this country is chosen by the voters who bother to show up on election day and vote. If every American voted and chose candidates who genuinely acted in the best interests of their constituents, money would lose a lot of influence, because corrupt politicians simply wouldn’t win elections. And yet, every election day, a ton of people stay home: some say they don’t have time, with work, kids, etc.; some think it doesn’t matter; some are just too damned lazy to bother with the trouble of voting; and the Republican Party is helping them all by flooding the airwaves with negative advertising and passing onerous voting restrictions to prevent people from accessing the polls. But that is wrong. It’s wrong not to vote and it’s wrong for Republicans to prevent people from voting. Every American citizen has the responsibility to participate in the Democratic process by voting; they owe it to our country to educate themselves about the candidates and issues to be considered, and cast their ballots accordingly.
So get out and vote. And the single most important thing to know is does this politician support big money in politics? Do they believe that corporations are people and that money is speech, or do they support a Constitutional Amendment stating precisely the opposite? That’s it.
Because if we want to get anything done in this country for ordinary Americans, we have to get money out of politics—the Democrats won’t save us on their own.
After all, sometimes they don’t act like Democrats.
*Indeed, I think the proper role of the conservative party is to ensure government is administered efficiently and without waste—and yet it recognizes and takes pride in those parts of the government that are necessary for the good of our country and its people. It seems to me that today’s Republican politicians only genuinely care about the military, and that’s only so they can pay off their buddies and take us to unnecessary wars.