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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Final Post Prior to Iowa Caucuses

I want to make this brief. So here are the points:

Ron Paul will eventually need to do the speech on racial equality. The establishment, left and right, does not fear a libertarian insurgency in either the primaries or the general election. What they are afraid of is progressives coming on board in coalition with Ron Paul. That's why these attacks around charges of racism and homophobia are just getting started and will get much worse unless Paul addresses them in a major speech. If he did it now, he would win Iowa by more than 10 percentage points and come in second in NH by less than 5. As it stands now, he might lose Iowa. I have been saying for some time now that he will win Iowa. Some cable talking head will claim they predicted it first and maybe they will have antedated mine but I was the first to call it a no-brainer. If he loses Iowa, let me also be the first to say that his staff has no brains.

Libertarians, stop looking for an unconditional victory; it ain't happening. Progressives, the same goes for us. Separately, the best that either of us could claim is about 35 % of the voting public. 25% each is probably more realistic. Neither a consistent progressive nor a consistent libertarian campaign wins by itself at this point in our nation's history. That does not mean that progressives and libertarians together cannot find the requisite common ground to get above 50% of the vote. Go back and read two posts "The Choice for Libertarians" and "What is the Green Republican Strategy?"

Libertarians, you will not get smaller government and simpler and lower taxes without coalition with progressives. Progressives, you will not get funding to build the peaceful green economy unless you first agree to make deep cuts in federal spending on warfare, drug wars and corporate welfare. There are many ways to bridge the gap. There is one sure fire way to not get anything done: refuse to build a real coalition.

Iowa progressives, you can make history. Do not be swayed by the propagandists of fear. If you are more than the margin of victory, Ron Paul will notice. That's when the real revolution begins. It will take a coup along the way and unfortunately we progressives cannot do it alone; if that is not clear after 4 years of the present administration, nothing is clear.

Iowa Ron Paul libertarians, call your progressive friends. Tell them you need their help and they have a real place at the table when they do.

Finally, here is the eventual covenant.: A substantial net reduction in the size and budget of the federal government with savings from cuts coming largely from drawing down the military industrial catastrophe's empire building and maintenance. These reductions go half to debt reduction and half to block grants to the states, according only to their populations, to be used as they each wish. This means approximately $3 trillion  gets moved out of the federal government over 4 years time. Additionally, with some out of the box thinking on tax reform, a deal can be struck that adds another trillion in revenue. This would mean that federal debt is reduced by 2 trillion and 2 trillion goes back into the economy through the states. My guess is that movement of this much money stimulates the economy enough to add another trillion in revenue.

Progressives, ask yourselves, "Will Obama provide progressive tax reform and 2.5 trillion in stimulus  the second go round?" Libertarians, ask yourselves, "Will Mitt Romney reduce taxes below the Bush rates for 99% of the population while cutting 2.5 trillion from federal spending his first go round?" If you both answer no, then you have to choose: get stuck with what you know is coming or change dance partners for 4 years and get a lot more than you'll ever get by dancing alone.

That was not short enough. See you January 4.

Friday, December 23, 2011

How to Deal with the Racist Statements in Newsletters

See also :http://progressivesforronpaul.blogspot.com/2012/01/racism-and-ron-paul.html

As the writer of this blog, I intend to continue supporting Ron Paul for the nomination and for his election to the office of President. I do not believe that Ron Paul intends to be a racist president in any manner. I think that is clear to all who support him. However, he is guilty at least of gross negligence in not overseeing those news letters. I understand that he was focused on family and business and could have easily overlooked the racist statements, but this is still not an excuse. It was his publication, using his name. 

I understand his following some poor advise not to admit that the comments he knew of were racist regardless of the context. I understand that he has taken moral responsibility by stating that he bears the responsibility of negligence. I understand that he is frustrated by all the redundant questioning over this issue. I understand that his public words in books and speeches have been totally devoid of racism and moreover, often anti-racist in intent based on his Christian faith and libertarian philosophical principles.

What I do not understand is his campaign's failure thus far to prepare him to meet these accusations head on in an effective way. I sincerely and deeply hope that they will help him to prepare a speech on racial equality which addresses exactly what he knew and when he knew it, apologizes genuinely for his negligence/and or involvement, gives clear heart-felt reasons why he opposes racism, acknowledging that it continues to be a major moral problem in our culture, and illustrates in detail how his policy proposals will address issues of race and discrimination.

He needs to do this speech in a setting that involves racial minorities. He needs to show some penitence by donating the amount of funds his newsletters raised to the cause of racial justice and equality through broadly accepted channels such as the NAACP, the Urban League, the United Negro College Fund, etc. He needs to reach out to minorities within the congress and hope that some of them ask to stand with him on stage as he delivers this speech.

Now is a pivotal moment in our nation's history. The truth is needed in full contrition and just defense. This speech needs to tell the truth about Ron Paul and about why he never got to the bottom of who wrote these racist statements. If the truth is not told in all its embarrassing detail, his campaign is finished and his followers are left distraught, their cause set back for years to come. He can once and for all end this agglutinative attack with a comprehensive speech on the issue of race. I suggest his staff go back and read Senator Obama's "More Perfect Union" of March 18, 2008. If they cannot see and feel the power of this very unique and uncharacteristic speech, they need to find someone else to write Dr. Paul's speech.

If they fail to do this, it will constitute one of the most egregious moral and political failures in our nation's history. So I hope that others here  join me in saying to his staff, Please!!! For the sake of our nation's future and the future of liberty, do the right thing and take care of this matter promptly and comprehensively.

An Excellent Post...

Letter to Gary Howard and Jesse Benton Regarding Ron Paul's News Letters

Gary and Jesse,

I am the writer of http://progressivesforronpaul.blogspot.com/. I intend to continue supporting Ron Paul for the nomination and for his election to the office of President. I do not believe that Ron Paul intends to be a racist president in any manner. I think that is clear to all who support him. However, he is guilty at least of gross negligence in not overseeing those news letters. I understand that he was focused on family and business and could have easily overlooked the racist statements, but this is still not an excuse. It was his publication, using his name. 

I understand his following some poor advise not to admit that the comments he knew of were racist regardless of the context. I understand that he has taken moral responsibility by stating that he bears the responsibility of negligence. I understand that he is frustrated by all the redundant questioning over this issue. I understand that his public words in books and speeches have been totally devoid of racism and anti-racist in intent based on his Christian faith and libertarian philosophical views.

What I do not understand is your failure thus far to prepare him to meet these accusations head on in an effective way. I sincerely and deeply hope that you will help him to prepare a speech on racial equality which addresses exactly what he knew and when he knew it, apologizes genuinely for his negligence/and or involvement, gives clear heart-felt reasons why he opposes racism, acknowledging that it continues to be a major moral problem in our culture, and illustrates in detail how his policy proposals will address issues of race and discrimination.

He needs to do this speech in a setting that involves racial minorities. He needs to show some penitence by donating the amount of funds his newsletters raised to the cause of racial justice and equality through broadly accepted channels such as the NAACP, the Urban League, the United Negro College Foundation, etc. He needs to reach out to minorities within the congress and hope that some of them ask to stand with him on stage as he delivers this speech.

Now is a pivotal moment in our nation's history. The truth is needed in full contrition and just defense. This speech needs to tell the truth about Ron Paul and about why he never got to the bottom of who wrote these racist statements. If the truth is not told in all its embarrassing detail, his campaign is finished and his followers are left distraught, their cause set back for years to come. I suggest you go back and read President Obama's "More Perfect Union" of March 18, 2008. If you cannot see and feel the power of this very unique speech, you need to find someone else to write Dr. Paul's speech.

If you fail to do this, it will constitute one of the most egregious moral and political failures in our nation's history. Please!!! For the sake of our nation's future and the future of liberty, do the right thing and take care of this matter promptly.


Cornelius F. Brantley, Jr.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Establishment Summary:

Iowa does not matter. Ron Paul does not matter. You do not matter.

Rachel Maddow's Mind: An Exploration of the Logic of the Irrational and of the Necessary

Optimism is in the air and I don't want to dampen it, but I hope it doesn't turn to euphoria once Ron Paul wins the Iowa Caucuses. The spin is already on and you can find it on Fox and MSNBC. Look for these lines on January 4: "Iowa does not count." "Mitt Romney's close second place finish is the real story." "Ron Paul poured millions of dollars and hours into Iowa." "Ron Paul is to be praised but we know he cannot win the nomination." I'll be expecting royalties.

This is the story unless enough progressives show up to give Paul a double digit victory. Even then he must finish within 5 points of Romney in NH to continue the curiosity on cable. If, however, progressives and independents come out in numbers larger than his margin of victory, the story will change. Look for charges of fraud, cheating, infiltration, etc. Things can then get real nasty. No more trying to buttering him up with praise. He becomes the GOP persona non grata. Democrats may opportunistically feign praise of him under such duress, but behind stage, panic will be swelling. Ron Paul is bad news for both parties and their worse news possible should he declare a coalition strategy. 

Right now Iowa progressives have an opportunity to do something bigger than anyone has imagined. If they come out in huge numbers, they can give Ron Paul a huge victory, one which prompts many more progressives to jump ship. But they need more than a no name blogger like me to reassure them, it's a good thing to do.

In the last few days I have been asking myself, 'What's not to like about this scenario?" For hard core libertarian supporters of Ron Paul the answer is all too obvious. A progressive margin of victory for Paul means coalition, and coalition means something less than total victory on economic issues. They would of course want to interpret this blue shift as a come-to-faith moment. Progressives have seen the light and are no longer progressive. Or perhaps more subtly, progressives are giving us a chance to do it our way for 4 years and see what happens. Those two spins would be a mistake that I don't think that Ron Paul himself would make, even though his most ardent supporters understandably would. Should Paul give in to the lustful crowd, progressives would abandon him in the general election and Obama would win a landslide.

On the progressive side, it becomes increasingly more difficult to understand the logic of refusing to jump ship. Doing so in the primary causes no harm and has all sorts of benefits. Logic can occasionally serve stupidity so let's imagine ourselves in the mind of a Democratic operative, say, Rachel Maddow: 

Ron Paul's anti-war stances are appealing but deep down I know he's a homophobe, misogynist and racist. I cannot in good conscience support someone who harbors all these demons. Rachel is an intelligent and politically savvy progressive. She knows that Ron Paul will not return us to DADT and even if he gets a supreme appointment or two, they will be replacements who want to send abortion laws back to the states but wouldn't be able to.. Furthermore, she knows Paul is not going to waste his time trying to undo the Civil Rights Act.

Maybe the potential bigotry that lurks in Paul's soul is simply too much to handle. I can see that, but Rachel, being a victim of such bigotry herself, ought to know how ubiquitous it is in our culture. It's lurking beneath , above and within us all, liberals as much as conservatives. If we search for the pure in heart to lead us, we shall wait for the eschaton. 

Besides, bigots are often easily used for righteous causes. It's a major them in our paradoxical American politics. Who but LBJ could have pushed civil rights through congress? Who but Richard Nixon could have opened the gates to China? Who but Ronald Reagan could  have halted and and begun to reverse the nuclear arms race. This of courses not a matter of virtue on the part of these presidents. Rather, it is a matter of political necessity and American distrust of ideologues except when they are going against their own grain. 

There is of course a down side to this paradox. Who but Barack Obama can we trust to escalate wars with Arab states? Who else but the Community Organizer in Chief would we trust to bail out big banks? It is the president's perceived virtues that enables vice to continue in the White House. My gut tells me, neo-cons don't want any of the GOP candidates because they know that Barack Obama is better at getting done the job of empire building and maintenance.

I have another feeling that the learned and creative thinking Maddow has already ponder all of this. What she may not want to toy with is her job security. Witness her public silence over the firing of Keith Olbermann. I like Rachel Maddow and agree with her about 90% of the time, but her dismissal of Ron Paul and apparent inability or deliberate disregard for how progressives could radically change the shape of our political landscape by infiltrating the GOP is to my mind baffling. 

Perhaps it is, as I have said before, the only legitimate reason: if we get Paul nominated, he might beat Obama and usher in all his naive nightmares. Thankfully he gets neither nominated nor elected without a firm and clear promise of a coalition government.

Or it might be that she just does not want to give up on Barack Obama. I don't either but we are at the end of 3 years and we still have record military spending, constitutional rights still in trouble, wars more easily started,  and very little investment in a peaceful green economy. I would love to see an about face in Obama II but I am not counting on it, and without some real pressure on the debate stage next year, we are highly unlikely to get such a change. 

The only thing I understand is the very logical job security rationale. She would be dismissed in a big way should she take such a high risk on her corporate media platform. Perhaps she is right. If she can maintain her status, she can advocate more loudly for our progressive causes. There is no shame in such logic, but their is much to blush about when claiming anything more virtuous. 

Again, Rachel, I'm not talking here about voting for Paul next November. I'm only saying, you have the biggest platform of any progressive in the nation. Do you really want to pass up this opportunity to move the debate several clicks leftward? GE owned NBC is a giant within the military industrial catastrophe. They probably would fire you, but I am sure you have something under your pillow or in a credit union to tide you over. Come on... jump!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It is insane and immoral...

if we allow the Republican party to nominate anyone other than Ron Paul or Jon Huntsman.

Huffington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, The Progressive, Countdown, TRMS, FSTV, and all other liberal news and commentary media need to advocate immediately for the massive infiltration of the GOP primaries and caucuses by progressives and liberals in every  party and every state.

No more excuses!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Opt Out with a Public Option: Possible Green Republican Coalition Covenant on Entitlements

I continue to think about how to make this coalition work. It's not in the DNA of hard core libertarian and progressives to make deals. "Compromise" is a dirty word for many because the compromise that comes out of  Washington tends to be watered down legislation of the lowest common denominator. It's like trying to fire a bullet from a shotgun. There may very well be an explosion but any striking of the actual target is purely accidental.

To get us beyond this impasse we need legislation that embraces the real and perceived best of both worlds. I have been trying to persuade someone in Ron Paul's campaign that the opt out will never make it out of congress and to President Paul's desk for signature. This outcome being all too likely, the surplus which is designated to subsidize the opt out ought to go unconditionally to the states for use as they choose.

I would prefer that we find ways to lower the Social Security portion of the payroll tax rate permanently for both businesses and individuals and pay for it by removing the cap. I would also like to see the funding for Medicare/Medicaid come from a value added tax or from increased tariffs on products from China and other dictatorial regimes. I think that private health insurance should be supplementary and catastrophic in a system of Medicare for all, giving insurance companies expanded opportunities to sell other insurance products as is done in the German system.

I know very well such a system is not going to be put into place in my life time, and so I voted for Obama, believing that he was serious about the public option and that such an option would be available to all US citizens and residents. I still believe that proposal is doable, given sufficient political will. Alas... such gumption and courage is unlikely to be summoned in Obama II. (When will big name progressives wake up to this obvious reality which is applicable to so many other policy choices in Obama II?!!!)

So... what if we made the following deal?:  Allow every person 25 years and under to opt out of the Social Security and Medicare system and at the same time allow anyone to pay double on their Medicare payroll taxes in order to be eligible for all Medicare benefits prior to retirement. Dependent children of those who agreed to this option would be fully vested immediately.

Crunching numbers to see if this is doable, of course, could reveal that such a proposal would not fully fund current or future retirees' Medicare benefits. This is complicated by the reality that certainly there would have to be a provision for how those who have opted out may pay to opt back in. If, however, the balance sheets would work out, the surplus funds of Ron Paul's 50/50 transition plan could still be block-granted to the states.

Would you support such a covenant or is it a compromise too far? Love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Grinch Might Steal the Ninth Day of Christmas

Newt Gingrich has several things going for him that have enabled him to take a huge lead. His is the story of repentance and coming from behind. Americans love a repentant sinner and an underdog. He has played this up and its paying off.

He is also full of big ideas, many incoherent and some down right nutty, but he is addressing the American people's sense that something big needs to happen. Newt's big ego is being sublimated as into big change ideas. Contrast that with the failed consensus building strategy of the current administration. We Americans don't always know where we need to go, but we know we need to go somewhere. Standing stagnant in a stalemate will get us nowhere. Lingering at the lowest common denominator yields legislation that leaves our economy limping.

Newt appears to be a proven commodity. He takes credit for getting big things done, and Republican voters want to believe that he was responsible for the 90s boom. On the other hand, his sins are already out there. He's an old man with a wife who knows how to keep him from making a total fool of himself. He is channeling Reagan well.

He is not Mitt, and Republicans are weary of the rehearsal. I still think Santorum could come out of the back of the pack if Newt stumbles. Unfortunately Republicans are not in the mood for a sane candidate like Jon Huntsman.

That leaves Ron Paul. His campaign has been diligently trying to reach traditional Republicans in Iowa. The strategy may pay off but one has to see that Newt is picking up steam. I am still predicting a Ron Paul victory in Iowa but the polls are saying something different. Paul needs a boost to get him across the finish line of this important preliminary heat in first place.

Shifting to Blue and Green Republican strategies is a must, and it is far better to do it now than wait for a possible second place set back in the Iowa caucus. Even if he finishes first and Newt or Mitt place a close second and third in Iowa, Ron Paul does not get all the attention. Can you see the headline: "Romney and Gringrich in Three Way Tie with Paul"? Moving towards coalition in the official campaign is essential. Hate to repeat myself but.. the sooner the better....

Progressives need to think about this if they get an invitation to join the Republican caucus: What if Newt pulls off a huge victory in Iowa and gets within a few points of Romney in NH? Do you really want to risk Newt winning the nomination and possibly the election. Another good reason to jump ship now. I am not an Iowa resident but I am extending the invitation right now.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What is the Green Republican Coalition Strategy?

This strategy is a complement of the Blue Republican strategy, founded by Robin Koerner. Koerner has eloquently described the very obvious ways that Ron Paul appeals to independent, moderate, libertarian and progressive Democrats. The Blue Republican Facebook page is a place of hospitality and ideas unlike so many highly partisan pages on the net.

Koerner is a classical liberal Brit on his way to becoming an American citizen. His form  of liberalism looks very close to Ron Paul's libertarianism, and like that of Ron Paul's, is totally consistent.  I have yet to find any disagreement he has with Ron Paul on policy.

Koerner and I have been carrying on a friendly debate. We agree that Ron Paul is right on ending the wars and occupations we are in and bringing home troops from bases around the world. We also agree that Ron Paul is the only major Republican candidate who has taken very seriously the farewell speech warning of President Eisenhower concering the dangerous threat of the military industrial complex.  We believe that we are spending far too much on needless and often counter-productive weapons and weapon systems and that this is causing tremendous harm to our economy and to our constitutional representative democracy.

Finally, we agree with Paul that the Patriot Act is a menace to a free society and anything but patriotic. Civil liberties and constitutional rights have been greatly diminished under both Bush and Obama and its time for the American people to take those liberties and rights back from the corporate political duopoly which has stolen them.

Where we part company is on economic issues. While progressives like myself and Dennis Kucinich are in agreement with Ron Paul that the Federal Reserve has got to go, we want it replaced by congressional control of the creation of money and of the regulation of our monetary system. We also agree that we need to do something about national, business and personal debt but we think that the private banking system is a major part of the problem and that deregulation in general (though maybe not in all details) plays right into the hands of the usury factory and debtor slavery paradigm.

Koerner and I have talked very little about taxes. With other libertarians in general, I have yet to find much common ground on taxes other than we agree that the majority of Americans are paying too much. Libertarians, unfortunately seem to think the top 1 percent need more tax reductions; we progressives think they can weather a minor increase and still not go out of business or start laying off more workers than they already have.

It concerns us progressives that Ron Paul does not like Social Security or Medicare but it relieves us to know he does not want to end full benefits for those already in the system and that he is willing to take money out of the military industrial catastrophe's several empire building and maintenance budgets and use it to shore up entitlements and the social safety net too many have become dependent upon. But here is is precisely the place that the Green Republican strategy diverges from the Blue Republican strategy (although I have yet to hear either Koerner or Paul reject this idea outright):

Ron Paul wants to shore up entitlements and social safety nets with savings from cuts in spending on militarism for two important reasons. First, he is a moral human being and he knows that, despite his philosophical objection to a system of government entitlements, pulling the rug out from under people who are dependent upon programs they have paid for with their own hard earned money would be morally indefensible.

Second, Ron Paul wants to transition our economy and our entitlement system. He knows this cannot happen overnight and so he has put forth an opt out proposal which will allow people 25 years and under to not pay payroll taxes and not receive social security, medicare and medicaid benefits.

Ron Paul is to be commended for being honest about the need to keep Social Security and Medicare solvent and for proposing a fiscally responsible way of paying for it. He also deserves to be commended (and his libertarian enthusiasts need to hear this) for his willingness to compromise. That's a dirty word for many libertarians and progressives, but Ron Paul has demonstrated by this example that one can compromise on policy choices without compromising one's principles.

Having set that precedent, the Green Republican strategy asks Ron Paul to modify his compromise. His opt out proposal should get a fair hearing in congress and before the American people, but we object to it strongly because we believe that it will ultimately undermine the long standing covenant we as a country have made with seniors and persons living with disabilities. We have no doubt that this opt out proposal, being paid for, would not in the short term undermine the government's ability to pay beneficiaries their full benefits.

However, if young people respond to this proposal myopically, as it is almost certain many of them will, many of them will also live to regret it, and our society will have a huge price to pay for their inability to take care of themselves if the economy suddenly tanks just before they retire. Progressives believe it is far better to have a mixed economy system for retirement than to have all one's eggs in either only the social security basket or in only the private investment basket. Far wiser and safer to have both!

We also believe that given a full airing of the risks and benefits of Paul's opt out proposal, it will not make it out of congress to his desk for signature.  Ron Paul needs to tell us and his base what he intends to do if this proposal fails to become law. He has promised to put half of the savings from reductions in spending on militarism into shoring up these entitlements and social safety nets.

What happens if there is no opt out provision? Will these funds still be channeled into entitlements? Believe it or not, progressives would probably agree with libertarians that such action would actually overfund entitlements. I do not think Ron Paul wants that to happen. I am almost certain that Paul would prefer, in this likely scenario, to direct those funds to deeper tax cuts and more debt reduction. We might be able to stomach a little of that if the debt reduction does not involve more cuts in domestic spending and the tax cuts are heavily weighted towards the bottom and middle, but we ain't gonna swallow the whole enchilada.

The Green Republican Strategy would be to redirect those funds toward building, repairing and greening our transportation, energy, environmental, educational and communication infrastructure. We realize that also may be an enchilada too big for Ron Paul to swallow. So here's the Green Republican compromise: send that money in the form of block grants back to the states according only to each state's population and with only one requirement: clearly and publicly report in print and online where every dollar goes. If some states want to use that money to give tax breaks to oil slurpers, let them. If some states want to use that money to fund single payer health care and high speed rail, go ahead. Let the state laboratory experiments begin.

I think that with agreed upon reductions in corporate welfare and military adventurism,  we can free up at least 400 billion annually with half being used for debt reduction and half being sent to the states. We could probably add at least another 200 billion to this 50% formula by negotiating real tax reform and consolidation of cabinet departments.

Putting 300 billion or more annually into the hands of state and local governments may not be ideal from ether progressive or libertarian perspectives, but it would definitely be better than what either Obama II or Romney I is offering.

Politically speaking, if Ron Paul were to accept the Green Republican proposal, it would be a very minor adjustment in his platform but a gigantic political move. Doing this and promising to hire a real coalition cabinet would mean millions of progressives flooding his way overnight. Both major parties would tremble and their establishment leaders would go into full panic mode. Principled leftists would be without excuse; they would have to endorse Ron Paul or drop the adjective. The GOP convention would have to reject or nominate a candidate who has won a clear plurality and perhaps even a majority of primary votes.

Ron Paul entitles one of his books, Revolution. This modest proposal of the Green Republican Strategy will make it happen. Every progressive, independent and libertarian American who's half awake knows we need one. And yes we can, with just a little principled compromise, do it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Positive Attempt for a Fighting Chance

From time to time I need to remind myself and my readers what this blog is all about. I am attempting to help Ron Paul get elected not because I endorse everything he stands for but because he is a good and honest man who has proven his ability to reach out to and cooperate with progressives, despite some profound differences on economic policy.

In several posts I have aimed to show how one might imagine bridging the gap between libertarians and progressives on their fundamental disagreements concerning economic policy. For example, I have suggested that Robert Frank's progressive consumption tax proposal might be a policy that both libertarians and progressives find acceptable and helpful if not ideal.

Creative solutions to long standing problems often come not by having everyone agree to one specific way to solve the problem. Frank's proposal in some ways illustrates a synthesis of solutions, taxing only voluntary consumption (a libertarian ideal) and taxing in a way that asks more of those who have more and less of those who have less (a progressive ideal).

My main proposal here is not quite a synthesis as it is a mutual and temporary accommodation for the sake of getting something better done rather than allowing the corporate duopoly to totally shaft everyone of us for another 4 years.

Progressives and libertarians are both non-interventionists or at least truly reluctant interventionists when it comes to foreign policy. We both agree that our nation spends obscenely too much money on war and war preparation, so much so that we end up making war more likely. We both agree this money could be put to much better use.

We disagree, however, on what is the better use we could put this money to. We progressives would like to take every dime and use it to fund national green infrastructure projects, universal single payer health care and after these sorts of projects are sufficiently funded, to pay down the debt. Libertarians would like to use most or all of this money for lowering and/or eliminating taxes while shrinking the size of government to reduce debt, so that individuals and businesses keep more of their hard earned money to spend, save or invest in whatever ways they choose, allowing market forces to punish foolish choices and reward wise ones.

I try not to debate too much here which idea is the best although some of that is essential in the dialogue. Instead, I try to ask myself what policy would address the biggest concerns and embrace the most compelling ideas of both sides in as equal of a way as possible. One could argue that such a formula is a foolish way to make policy. I agree to a certain extent. I am of the pragmatic school that says, find out what works and fund that and de-fund the stuff that does not work.

The pragmatic approach is a fairly sound way to go about policy making as long as one does not assume that there is only one way to skin a cat (such an archaic, trite,and violent analogy, I know). Both progressives and libertarians understandably argue, we need more of this (tax cuts or infrastructure contracts) and less of that (tax subsidies for the already rich or infrastructure spending on bridges to nowhere). I say, depending on the context, both sides might be right.

I might say to my libertarian friend, Would the private sector have ever built the interstate highway system without government intervention and funding? To which she might reply, maybe not, but if we did not have to surrender our money to a central planner who over-regulates us, we probably would have developed a voluntarily funded transportation system that connects businesses and individuals rather than bypasses them. Reasonable people can make reasonable proposals that contradict one another with neither side doing so with malicious intent.

Where we sometimes get into unneccessary conflict is assuming that all contradictions are irreconcilible and that such contradictions are indicative of totally opposing goals and means to those goals. For example, it is often assumed that libertarians are always against centralized power and always in favor of the most localized power possible, individual power being the most effective way to get the best results. Conversely, it is also often assumed that progressives are against individual autonomy and localized power and always in favor of central planning.

These assumptions are found wanting when viewed more carefully. Libertarians are not against central planning as long as that those centralized powers gain power though an unfettered market place. Suspending the temptation to argue that unfettered market places do not and perhaps cannot exist, let's just assumed that Walmart gained all of its power (I am still talking primarily here about economic power) through being the best buyer and most cost competitive seller of the biggest variety of consumer products. If that is true then shareholders in Walmart may hire through their board of directors one person or a small group of people to work from one location to set policy for every Walmart store and employee in the world. (Not saying this is precisely what Walmart does but Walmart could function this way in total conformity with every libertarian principle that Ron Paul believes and lives by.) Without making a value judgement, it is possible within a libertarian frame of reference to fully endorse highly centralized power.

In the same manner, progressives would be perfectly happy with local governments and individuals making their own policies, laws and procedures without mandates or funding from the federal government and consequently with much lower taxes imposed from Washington, DC if those policies, laws, procedures, etc. resulted in full employment and universal, affordable, quality healthcare. (Once again I'm asking for a suspension of the argument that such has not ever been tried.) We can go further in stating that progressives are just as much likely as libertarians are to be involved or not in local and voluntary organizations and businesses which promote employment, hard work, just compensation, etc. We progressives want, just as much as libertarians do, to see individuals in local settings work hard and be rewarded for productive decisions and practices.

In short we progressives are very willing to move economic and political power away from Washington and Wall Street toward local and voluntary individuals and organizations as long as this increases rather than decreases human viability, dignity and worth both physically and spiritually. Of course, we will not agree that shutting down Washington will result in such advances or even reduce the centralization of political and economic power. However, would libertarians not be willing to partner with progressives if this meant money and power moved out of Washington and into the hands of of state governments to either enable tax cuts for individuals and businesses or state and local spending on whatever the state and localities deemed appropriate? What if partnering with progressives meant that 99% of the population paid less in taxes than they do under current law? What if we went from 5 marginal rates to only 4 and what if those margins began after a much higher exemption and continued in much a wider range at the bottom and the middle and only applied to money spent, not to savings or investment?

And to flip this back to progressives like me... what if giving up on Washington to partner with  libertarians meant that your state would fund the hiring of more foreign language and physical education teachers for elementary schools? Or that new and energy efficient schools with the latest technologies were built all around your state and not just in districts and neighborhoods that could afford it. What if your state could compact with several surrounding states to fund and build a high speed rail system or single payer health insurance? Wouldn't legislation to enact such projects go through easier in state legislatures if the funds were there than if we wait for such projects being approved by the US Senate?

I know my libertarian readers are banging their heads against their I-pads right now. Why not just eliminate or at least massively reduce everybody's taxes, and if the market wants those things, let consumers and investors pay for them voluntarily? No need to loop the money up and through Washington and back down through state houses and city halls before a little bit of it comes back to me. Again, maybe you, my libertarian friend could do much more and better with $60K untaxed and in your wallet or bank account than $60K coming to your kids' school district from 3 millionaires in another state through  a series of government bureaucrats. But consider this: wouldn't receiving block grants from Washington while most people are sending less to Washington over the next 4 to 8 years be better than what you will get from either Obama II or Romney I?

Time after time I have been trying to ask both progressives and libertarians, do you really want the unattainable perfect to be the enemy of the attainable good? And if you are willing to wait until final victory and unconditional surrender is within reach, are you really going to get anything better than what you are getting now?

Not to close this with something obviously self serving, but if you would prefer better to bad or worse,even if the best has to wait for another decade, how about linking this blog on every progressive and every libertarian site you know of and send this link to all you know on your mailing list who are tempted to vote for .... Well you know their names, their promises,... and their results. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What happens if Progressives don't get on board?

There is one very obvious result if progressives do not temporarily leave the Democratic party to vote for Ron Paul: Ron Paul finishes 2nd or 3rd in the GOP race. If he finishes 2nd or 3rd, he gets to make a 8pm speech at the convention and have some of his pet issues inserted rhetorically into the GOP platform.

He may or may not run as an independent or third party candidate in the general election. If he does so without having enough progressives on board to put him in first place going into the Tampa Bay convention, he is less likely to get very many progressives on board for the general election. His libertarian causes will have some exposure but this will not result in any substantial legislative action.

This sad consequence for libertarians is mirrored by potentially worse consequences for progressives. If president Obama is re-elected, we probably will see a switch in policy already underway from counter-insurgency to counter-terrorism which will mean more drone strikes causing more "collateral damage" and fostering future blow back. We will see some very minor reductions in military spending motivated mostly by the need to placate progressives as more damaging cuts afflict domestic programs. Most international bases will remain open and a few new ones will emerge. An increasing number of bases will be staffed by mercenaries, many of them non-Americans and all of them paid for by the American tax payer.

Additionally, we will see a continued game of chicken over the Bush tax cuts, probably delaying any changes until 2014 and yielding to lowering or freezing marginal rates while closing tax loopholes. This of course will only mean that new loopholes will emerge and there will be no absolute cap on the total value of loopholes. Furthermore, this translates into less real progressivity in the tax system.

Banks will probably take a few token hits with John Huntsman's idea of a cap on the size of banks encouraged by higher tax rates on those that exceed the cap and the funds collected going to further tax reductions for giant corporations. This game of economic musical chairs will be marketed to us as a get tough with bankers program.

There will be nominal increases in EPA fines and a notable but not gigantic increases in green technologies, most of which will be imported from China. The oil sands pipeline will be approved, and it will be the administration's largest jobs stimulus project; however, significant increases in those jobs will not be online until the end of Obama's second term with a great deal more being created at the beginning of the next administration, which of course will get the credit for these new jobs.

The patriot Act will remain unchanged . Civil liberties will be violated but we will not hear much about it, and the victims themselves will go largely unharmed in any visible way. A dozen or two more Americans will be killed in drone attacks, about half being the actual targets of these attacks. Gitmo will be closed and reopened somewhere else. Fidel will die and Raul will invite American corporations in and the embargo will at last be removed.

A handful of major natural disasters will result in some infrastructure improvements. We will be hearing about a 5G network coming out in  2016. The president will give some more populist speeches and many of them will be hailed as the signal that real change has begun. Democrats will go to their caucuses and polls. The race will boil down to Biden, Clinton and one other somewhat fresh face. Clinton will be nominated and lose a very close election in November, 2016. Feingold or Kucinich are likely to be in the mix somewhere and Bernie Sanders might even join the party; one of them might finish in third place. We will try again in 2020.

If Romney/Gingrich or Santorum wins, look for more excuses to increase the military budget and a real and substantial jobs program coming out of it thanks to the neo-con/blue dog coalition. Look for oil prices to drop as congress decides to open Alaska up for more exploration. Look for oil prices to climb again as we get involved in another middle east war. Look for gas prices to fall below $3 gallon in October 2014 and to climb back to a plateau somewhere between 3.50 and 4 by July 4 2015. Look for unemployment to go below 7 percent and maybe close  to 6 percent in September 2016 thanks to a newly revived military industrial complex. (Look for that group to do well under Obama II but unemployment to remain above 7 percent when he leaves office in January of 2017.)

Obamacare will not be overturned but more flexibility will be granted to the states to do as they please in trying to increase the number of people on private insurance plans. We will have some loopholes closed and a top rate of 30%. Huntsman's idea will be adopted by his fellow Mormon. Huntsman will also be the Secretary of State and so will be very quiet about taking any credit. Toxic assets will be cleaned up and a new round of slicing, dicing, splicing and betting both directions will  heat up as the housing market begins to recover. The Dow will flirt with 20K toward the end of October, 2016.

Romney and his nut job VP will be re-elected in a landslide in 2016 because libertarians and cultural conservatives will refuse to join a coalition candidacy to nominate Marcy Kaptur in the Democratic presidential primary and because Romney 's 4 years looks better than Obama's 4 years. We might even have 100K troops on the ground in Iran and a green zone in Tehran. (Tip: Invest in Chinese made American flags.)

This is a gloomy picture for both libertarians and progressives. Libertarians will fade into the background again as corporatism begins to deliver on some of the economic promises of libertarianism, more so of course under Romney I than Obama II. Progressives will take solace in a  gay friendlier world and have high hopes on Chelsea breaking the glass ceiling her mother barely missed. Abortion rights will fade a tad but will be fully regained in a deal made with Romney during the tax reform negotiations. This photo op will be slightly overshadowed by the appointment of the first openly gay 2 star general serving somewhere in the middle east.

What a day of rejoicing that will be! Not!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We the People... A Confession and Petition

We the people of the United States of America are in deep trouble.

We are drowning in  personal, business and government debt while many of us are without any or enough work and many of us are living in fear that we will be next in the unemployment line.

We, who can and have the opportunity, are working hard to make a little money as honestly as possible so that we may pay our bills, save for our futures, give to our children and to others in need in countless ways, and have a little freedom to rest and play and enjoy the presence of those we love.

We know that money must be borrowed, and that private and public funds must be invested and spent and taxes restrained in order for our economy to produce the jobs that will compensate us justly with enough to meet all our present and future needs and obligations along with some of our wants and wishes.

We know that we are all in one way or another responsible in some measure for the mess we are in.

We have spent too much for what we do not need and on what destroys us and others.

We have saved too little for our futures and more importantly for the futures of our children, grandchildren and all the committed communities which bless us most.

We have made sport out of politics, creating tribes of patronage and opportunism, pretending to be parties of principles and opportunities.

We have voted based on shallow allegiances rather than just causes, personalities rather than policies, and willful manipulation rather than thoughtful consideration.

We have done all of this and more while waving our flags and sending young men and women to kill and be killed, to maim and be maimed in unjust, unholy and counter-productive wars.

We have carried on with business as usual as if nothing important is happening while ignoring those flag-draped caskets which return with lives full of magnificent potential cut way too short, their children and spouses wounded at unimaginable depths for the rest of their lives.

We have seen and sighed and turned the other way as others come home from the same unjust, unholy and counter-productive wars, limbs truncated or missing, minds invisibly damaged, lives confused, relationships shattered.

We are responsible and we regret with real and deep sorrow how we have done wrong and not done right and how in fear we have turned from and against one another.

We want to turn in a different direction, work harder and smarter, invest and save more deliberately and prudently, spend less impulsively and less frequently and mostly on what we need, and only after saving and investing sufficiently and giving generously to meet the needs of others, spend on what we desire the most that we may rest and play regularly, deeply and freely with those who matter most to us.

We are committed and will strive to deepen and expand this commitment within ourselves and among others to do what is right and resist doing what is wrong so that we all can, may and will live more fully.

But we need help!

We need leaders who serve all the people without regard to power, party, wealth or poverty or any other distinction of personality, background or affiliation.

We need leaders in businesses, charities, not-for-profits, and governments to practice what they preach, obey the law and follow as best they know how the Constitution of the United States of America.

We need judges who will thoughtfully interpret and consistently uphold the law with wisdom and without partiality.

We need a president and a congress who will work together honestly and diligently to find principled and practical compromises to solve our most pressing and oppressing problems without resorting to ineffective, least common denominator policy.

We need federal, state and local governments limited lawfully so they cannot and will not do what they should not do, but sufficiently funded and equipped to do what they need to do, that which we the people as individuals and as members of families and voluntary communities cannot do without the collective power of government of, for and by the people.

We need our government to collect sufficient revenue more wisely and efficiently without overburdening workers, consumers, investors, businesses and retirees with excessive, regressive and confusing taxation.

We need these same governments and the lawmakers, agents, judges and enforcers within them to find and eliminate all fraudulent or wasteful spending, especially on counterproductive, unjust and unholy wars, on corporate or individual welfare for those who do not need it, on agencies and programs that, however well meaning, have proven time and time again their inability to solve the problems they were created to solve, and on any foreign or domestic individual, group, nation or cause which causes hard earned tax dollars to go to waste.

We need these same governments, most especially the federal government, to shift the money saved from reducing or eliminating wasteful government spending equally toward debt reduction and funding of local, state and national projects to maintain, repair, improve, modernize and green our transportation, communication, education, energy and environmental systems of infrastructure.

We need people hired to work in such projects and paid reasonable, livable, and just compensation and benefits for their hard and dignified work.

We need a coalition of generous libertarians and prudent progressives to rise up in political and economic coalition to do for the American people what leaders across the political spectrum for far too many years have failed to do: justly collect sufficient revenues, deeply diminish wasteful spending on violence and counter-productive programs, thoroughly reduce our national debt, and fully fund the necessary structures, systems and jobs for building a peaceful, green, democratic, productive, prosperous, prudent and generous American economy.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Great Opportunity for Ron Paul to Expand Support

Dennis Kucinich has put forward a proposal to end the Fed by returning monetary regulation to the congress. This presents a huge opportunity for Ron Paul and other libertarians to gain ground on one of their  major economic policies. Some will say that congress is given the right to coin money, not to make monetary notes or to make sure that the use of this money is regular, that it will be used throughout the states and with a consistent value. I am not qualified to argue the finer constitutional meaning of this clause, but it would seem that the issuing of federal notes is a means by which congress can provide a regulated monetary system, whether or not it is back by gold and/or silver.

Regardless, Kucinich's bill presents an opportunity for coalition on an important topic. Paul and other libertarians may not like every aspect of the NEED bill, but certainly they will acknowledge that it moves us away from the Federal Reserve's monetary dictatorship. After congress regains control of their constitutional duty, perhaps Paul's idea for allowing competitive currency can also be implemented. Perhaps Paul can persuade Kucinich to support amendments to make it more palatable for libertarians. The point is Kucinich's bill is a net positive for both libertarians and progressives and more importantly, the American people.

Sectarian libertarians will ruin Paul's chances of getting anything accomplished if they do not realize that compromise is not always a rejection of principle. If this bill moves us away from fiat money creation and holds congress responsible for inflation and deflation, isn't that a step toward electing representatives who will create the most effective policy for monetary stability? And if allowing competing currency and/or returning to the gold standard is what makes a currency stable, will not libertarians stand a better chance of getting elected and achieving these goals if congress controls monetary policy rather than the Fed?

Perhaps Paul will reject Kucinich's call for massive public investment in infrastructure. What if this portion of the bill could be rewritten to direct that money to the states to be used for such purposes? I already know that libertarians would prefer the money remain with the states through reducing or eliminating federal taxes rather than having the federal government distribute those funds. It's not a perfect solution from either the libertarian or progressive point of view, but doing it this way for 4 to 8 years and having the debate actually aired before the American people rather than suppressed as it is now under the current corporate duopoly certainly represents a step in the right direction from either perspective.

Congressman Paul has a big opportunity here to gain progressive support in his presidential campaign. He could say, "While I do not agree with every aspect of this bill, its passage would be a big step in the right direction and certainly put our monetary system on much better footing than it is now under the control of the Federal Reserve.... I am more than willing to work with my good friend from the great state of Ohio to make whatever adjustments are necessary for its passage."  Even if they could not work something out now, such public cooperation would encourage progressives to jump ship for the primaries and caucuses.

For his part Kucinich ought to seriously consider endorsing Representative Paul's presidential campaign. He could do this at the same time that he throws his support behind Marcy Kaptur, now his rival in their newly combined Ohio district. He could also hit the trail campaigning for Paul and for progressive Democrats across the nation as well as for libertarian Republicans who could unseat blue dog Democrats.

Kucinich has already earned Paul's respect and could easily be included in his cabinet. Most of Paul's supporters would be very comfortable with Secretary of State Kucinich. I would hope that Paul would offer him VP or a major domestic post, combining some of the 5 that he wants to abolish into a Labor, Commerce and Economic Affairs Department.

Paul understandably wants to see how he does in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, but if he manages only second or third in 2 of those states, he ought to explicitly switch to a coalition strategy. He cannot expect that a second place finish brings him anything substantial out of Tampa Bay. He needs to go to Tampa Bay with a plurality of votes. If he could get 5 million progressives on board, he very well could come into Tampa Bay with better than 40% of the vote and a commanding lead in a 3-way race.

Having the GOP refuse to nominate him under such circumstances will garner him a great deal of sympathy, and if he follows it up with naming a truly trans-partisan cabinet, he stands a great chance of coming in first place in the general election, forcing congress to do the right thing by heeding the will of the American people or showing its despicable corporate colors by putting Romney/Biden into executive branch. Either way, the stage is set for a new American revolution.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Typical talk with a fellow Progressive

This is a conversation on Thom Hartman. I begins with me trying again to make some inroad on a progressive blog:
This may be counterintuitive but what progressives need to do is support Ron Paul in next year's GOP primaries and caucuses and make friends with his supporters in the process. If enough of us do this, we can throw the GOP convention in Tampa Bay into chaos. It would probably result in a massive walk out by Paul supporters and possibly become the start of a third party coalition candidacy of Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders. Such a coalition in government would not allow for Paul's draconian wishes to be fullfilled in cutting domestic programs, but it would enable deep cuts in the military industrial castrophe. Paul has already designated any and all savings to go half toward debt reduction and half toward shoring up entitlements. He advocates this so he can fund his "opt out" proposal to allow young people to opt out of the system entirely. That proposal will go nowhere without 60 libertarian Senators. But with a coalition of libertarians and progressives in office, a deal could be struck to send that half of the savings to the states in block grants based strictly on population to be used as each state wishes. Not an ideal deal but one which busts up the gobal corporate duopoly and reframes the debate away from empire building and maintenance toward how best to build a peaceful green economy. For more on this idea see: http://progressivesforronpaul.blogspot.com/2011/08/this-blog-is-not-about-endorsing.html

Next I get a response, not an unusual one, a well meaning, one which tries to convince me that Ron Paul's policy are dangerous and naive:

Ron Paul is like a very fine grandfather clock that no longer runs.  He is right twice a day, profoundly so, but then there is the rest of the day and night.
Some otherwise intelligent people become Scientologists too.  There is an allure to the certainty of ideology, and Paul and the Libertarians love this utopian fantasy world of moral order and rationality too much to allow reality to get in the way.  I have heard Paul try to explain Austrian Economics, and it always goes to pure theory with no historical practical record of success.  In other words, this is a religion and trying to convert someone out of their religion is not likely to work or gain friends.
Practical alliances on points of policy contact are enough.  The idea of making Bernie stand by Paul with a straight face is cruel.  Comparing the two is ridiculous.  Bernie thinks and deals with reality without having a cult prescription ready to explain everything.  
The Fannie/Freddie meme is a serious lie contrary to the facts of the case.  In addition, it was Bush who tried to make them buy the bad mortgages, they resisted and barely figured in that market.  The federal policy was anti-red lining, not a subsidy program for people who could not afford a mortgage.  They had nothing to do with the private mortgage firms who committed these crimes.
Finally, the argument about money can have us all agree about the frauds of Wall St while we disagree about how to solve the problem.  Libertarian economics begs all the vital social questions that make democracy the real issue before us.
Next I respond in frustration because I am wanting to talk strategy, not policy:

I agree with your criticisms of Paul in particular and libertarianism in general, but I am not sure that you understand my point. It's about strategic voting, changing the debate, making sure it's not the same old story of the Democratic candidate trying to prove he'll put the pentagon budget on steroids as much so as his neocon rival will. It's about what can realistically be done given the rules of the Senate which neither party is willing to change. It's about a temporary alliance to gain the needed numbers to strike a mortal blow against a common enemy so that we can have a real debate about how to use or not use the government for puposes of economic growth and  justice. I am finding it extremely difficult to justify voting in a Democratic primary when thanks to gerrymandering and incumbency, there are no seriously contested races up or down the ballot between a progressive and a blue dog.
A coalition President Paul will never be able to do what a libertarian fantasy President Paul wants to do. I don't really believe that the GOP will nominate him even if he won a majority of the votes in the upcoming primaries. I don't believe our electoral college and congress will allow a plurality winning coalition campaign to occupy the White House, but I do believe that Paul and his supporters will welcome progressives on board when they see how much exposure it will give their candidate. And if by chance such a coalition wins, I believe it will be better for America than the present plan of populist rhetoric and premature capitulation.
Even if don't want to vote for him in the general election, do you not think it is wiser to have Paul in the general election debate along side Romney and Obama than to have the two corporatists alone on stage having the same tired old pissing contest over who's the most violent?
Do you have any competitive races between a liberal and a conservative in your primary anywhere on your ballot? If not, how are you not wasting your vote, casting it symbolically but not substantively? What possible harm could come from jumping ship to help drown the enemy when staying on board the current Democratic ship only solidifies the enemy's strength? I am very serious. Please convince me that I am wrong in terms of strategy. The only tenable argument I can think of is that the sectarian, libertarian Paul might win the general election and sweep 60 libertarian Senators into power, a possiblility I find to be highly improbable. Am I wrong to say that we are looking at a rare and epic opportunity in electoral politics for real change toward a peaceful, green and democratic direction? Am I wrong to think not taking advantage of this opportunity will be seen as an epic fail of immense proportions? I know that I am an unembedded, nobody amateur, but I would like one other good reason why this is not a strategy being talked about throughout progressive media and blogosphere.
 I apologize in advance if this sounds overly critical of you personally. I am trying to engage someone besides an opportunistic or naive libertarian in an honest discussion of this strategy. You personally are not at fault for what I see as a inside the box mutual political suicide pact made by those who have the most influence over the progressive agenda and strategy. I love Obama. I loved his "More Perfect Union" speech. I felt at ease with his moderately liberal platform but he has been outmaneuvered by a party hell bent on his destruction, and the economy is not going to make a comeback without massive stimulus, something that will not happen before November unless we go to war in Iran. I wish I could vote for him again and truly believe that real change was going to happen this time around. Something radical has to be done. Am I wrong? Somebody tell me why and how and what the alternative strategy is to get done what needs to be done.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Correction to previous post

In my post from 11/15/11 I concluded my prediction with President Obama and vice president Romney. After checking constitution, that seems impossible. The constitutional outcome would be: Romney/Biden. Anybody taking comfort in that?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Comment from Disappointed Reader, Michael

This site needs a million hits already...what the Hell have you people been doing??? You could have dealt a death blow to the warmongering Neo-Cons in the GOP by supporting Ron Paul. Epic FAIL on How to Make Meaningful Change Real, the Case for a Green Republican Strategy to Nominate and Elect Ron Paul

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Double Strategy to Victory: Committed but Friendly and Real Coalition

It's getting very close to crunch time in Iowa. Anything can happen but I am predicting a Ron Paul win the Iowa Caucuses. This is not a hard prediction to make and his victory there will mean less than his supporters hope. The question is: by what margin? He will get at least 25% of the caucus participants support.

This low percentage might give Romney a boost with what will be interpreted by the media as a Romney victory, having spent so little time, money and effort in Iowa compared to other candidates. The Gingriches, Santorums, Cains, Bachmanns, Perrys, etc. will want to nudge ahead of Romney but that desire will only serve to keep Paul's victory margin low.

Johnson and maybe Huntsman and Roemer might decide to tell their supporters to go with Paul so as to make sure Romney does not win and to discourage others from hanging in the race after finishing behind Romney.

Currently Paul's campaign is focusing on likely Republican voters and that may be all he needs to win in such a crowded field; however, after the field clears for New Hampshire, the standard strategy alone will not work. Yes, Paul's campaign (both official and grassroots) must continue to seek out loyal Republican support. Nevertheless, with Romney having a good showing in Iowa, and Cain, Bachman, Perry, and possibly Gingrich or Santorum no longer in the race, he will dominate New Hampshire and head to South Carolina with only 2 challengers, Paul and Santorum or Gingrich. That will most likely be a very tight primary, with less than a thousand votes separating these 3.

If Paul finishes a distant third (I predict a close second), the campaign has to wake up and make the quick  shift to an all out coalition strategy or else all is lost. Waiting until after Super Tuesday keeps him in second or third at best the remainder of the campaign, and coming to convention in second or third virtually ruins his influence on the general election.

The sooner the shift to a coalition strategy begins the better. With all due respect to the important work that Robin Koerner and the Blue Republican movement are doing, their efforts are not aimed at building a coalition government but at converting independents and Democrats or at least convincing them that Paul is mostly on their side and that despite the obvious disagreement over economic policies, a Ron Paul presidency will serve their interests best. In other words, get them in with common ground issues and then put economic libertarian policy in place, and in 4 years, these disaffected Democrats will become libertarian themselves, having seen at last the glories of the Austrian economy at work.

Even if we assume the Austrian miracle will take place if we liberals would just stay still long enough, Ron Paul's campaign has got to realize that at best he comes in a close second at the convention and the 1st and 3rd place candidates will team up to keep him out of any real power. Maybe it will take SC or Super Tuesday for them to realize this, but they will realize it eventually.

I can understand the hopefulness. If Kucinich won Iowa and then finished 2nd in New Hampshire and SC in 2008, I would have been dizzy, no, drunk with optimism that America had finally seen the light and that all we need to do is to keep getting the unadulterated progressive message out their. And I would have been hugely wrong! On the other hand, had Kucinich tried deliberately to form a real coalition with Ron Paul in the 2004 campaign, we might have been looking at a very different political landscape today.

If Romney gets elected, there may be an opportunity for libertarians to come and join a progressive campaign in the 2016 Democratic primary. I would rather not wait another 4 years and I am sure libertarians would prefer to have the lead candidate now than the VP candidate 4 years from now. If you, my libertarian reader, think I am hard-headed with you, wait till I am screaming mad at my progressive comrades because they do not open the gates to you.

So indulge me once more. Imagine that this amateur has it right: Ron Paul never gets nominated or elected without a real and obvious coalition with progressives. I think you would want to make that shift asap. If the shift occurs before Iowa, you would increase his margin of victory and give him more momentum going into NH and SC. A close second in NH will be a devastating, if not mortal blow to Romney. A win in Iowa and a close second in NH, thanks in part to progressive infiltration, will embolden progressives to come out in greater numbers in SC and Super Tuesday.

 If Santorum stays in the race through Super Tuesday, the establishment will go into panic mode and pressure will mount in the form of a VP promise for him to pull out . Tea party elements will be ticked off because they will not be privy to the Santorum deal. Ron Paul will get a number of anti-Romney voters in a two man race, enough to keep the race close and maybe enough to secure a plurality of votes if not delegates. A two way race is still winnable within a coalition campaign, but all Ron Paul supporters should pray for a 3-way race all the way to Tampa Bay.

The aim should be: get the nomination by bringing out every voter possible. I want one person to show me how Ron Paul gets 10 million votes without at least 2 million progressives. He got less than 2 million in 2008. Let's say he triples that number and adds 2 million moderate or libertarian independents and Democrats. That means he gets 8 million. That barely gets him in range of a plurality of votes in a 3 way race and no where near enough in a 2 way. There will be at least 24 million voters in next year's GOP primaries and caucuses which means at least 8 million votes are needed to secure a plurality of votes (which would not, of course, guarantee a plurality of delegates). Getting 12 million will be even more difficult. Without a minimum of 2 million progressives, Ron Paul's libertarian cause is delayed another 4 years. I invite anyone who knows the numbers better than I to educate me and show me where I am wrong.

Here is my very practical question: why not have a phone bank to reach Democrats in Iowa? I know there are a number of people who will say his candidacy is fraudulent but most of those folks are never going to vote for him anyway.  Even if Ron Paul manages to get the nomination without progressives, Romney will go third party. In that case, if Paul has not done the necessary coalition building, Obama will walk away with the election.

I am sure Ron Paul would like to go totally libertarian and be elected and govern that way. Who does not long for unconditional victory?  It is an impulse common even among the most virtuous. But what if that impulse precludes victory? Ron Paul is principled but realistic as evidenced by his transition plan. He has the personality to build coalitions. This skill must be accepted and encouraged by his loyalists. If there is a weakness in Ron Paul, it is that he would like nothing better than let someone else take the baton. Unfortunately, neither his son nor Gary Johnson are ready to do this.

Ron Paul is in the race; let's make him win. Let's not allow him to squeeze out a close victory in Iowa only to see Romney get all the credit for a surprisingly good showing in Iowa followed by an overwhelming victory in New Hampshire. By now it should be obvious how the MSM will spin any Ron Paul victory. Iowa must be a knock out, not a split decision. Paul needs to win Iowa by more than 10 percentage points and finish second in New Hampshire by less than 5 percentage points. That will put him into strong contention to win SC, and if both Gingrich and Santorum ( or any other walking dead) remain in the race for SC, Ron Paul wins. If he wins Iowa and finishes second in New Hampshire, the establishment will put major pressure on all the anti-Romney candidates to get out of the race. If Ron Paul pulls off victory in SC,  there will be no more than 3 candidates the rest of the race. If Paul wins more than half of the Super Tuesday states, Romney and Paul will be all that remains.

In short, the GOP establishment will make it nearly impossible for Ron Paul to take first place. They will stop at nothing to preserve the status quo. Look for slanderous lies everywhere if Ron Paul threatens to go to Tampa Bay with a plurality of votes. This would be an historic blow to a major party, dwarfing the Republican southern strategy that put Nixon and Reagan in the White House. The only way that Ron Paul pulls off such a radical coup is through a coalition strategy.

Please do not get me wrong, the current committed but friendly libertarian strategy has much to be said for it. It can by itself get Ron Paul second place in the GOP primaries. I do not say abandon this strategy; I just say supplement it. I am also not claiming that the coalition strategy gets Ron Paul the nomination. The combination of coalition with progressives and committed but friendly strategies does not get him nominated either. We would need at least 6 million progressives to pull that off and that is not doable at this late date.  What is doable is going to the convention with a plurality of votes and delegates. The higher the plurality the better. In a two way race this becomes much more difficult because a majority of delegates is most likely needed, depending on how well drop-outs do in the early states.

If, in a 3 way race we have a plurality of votes going into the convention, then 2nd and 3rd place will be given the nomination. This should result in a peaceful walk out of righteously outraged Ron Paul supporters.  This becomes much more effective if that plurality breaks the 40% threshold. If this happens Ron Paul can become the most successful third party candidate in our nation's history. If he announces a coalition cabinet with a progressive running mate, American politics is changed for ever. Both parties will be shaken to the core. We will have for real a second American Revolution underway. This story will be told only if the new coalition strategy is put in place no later than SC. If it is not put in place, tell your grandchildren to look for Ron Paul in the footnotes of their history books (assuming we still have them).

Addendum: If we have a 3 way race in general election the outcome might look like this:

Popular vote: 
Paul: 34% 
Obama: 33% 
Romney: 32%
Other: 1%

Electoral College:
Romney: 266
Obama : 248
Paul: 24

The election goes to congress. 

January 20, 2013: President Mitt Romney and Vice President Joe Biden are sworn into their respective offices.  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Libertarian/Progressive Coalition Tax Policy: A Bridge to Political Victory and Economic Liberty and Recovery

Taxes. Everybody hates taxes! Libertarians hate taxes more than most. Progressives, real progressives, want to reduce taxes on the poor and middle income individuals and families. Both libertarians  and progressives understand that there must be some amount of taxes but taxing anyone beyond what is needed to responsibly fund the legitimate functions of government is unjustly burdensome to all.

Of course there are some huge differences between libertarians and progressives over what those legitimate functions are. While we may not be able to resolve that problem, there may be some ways that we can come to some agreements about the most broadly acceptable way to tax.

Progressives have traditionally favored a progressive income tax to provide revenue while not overburdening those at the lower and middle portions of the income scale. Libertarians have tended to favor consumption taxes because they see purchasing as a voluntary action.

With all our inside the box, tribal thinking, these two ideas seem irreconcilable.

For progressives, consumption taxes are regressive, forcing  poor and middle income earners to have less disposable income than they would otherwise have under a progressive income tax structure. For libertarians, the progressive income tax is punitive on people who are the most productive (I'll withhold my disdain for this assumption for another article...) and discourages investment (a much more tenable criticism with which I tend partly to agree).

What if we could we could address both sides of this issue in a a mutually acceptable way? What if we could have a tax policy which maintains progressivity and establishes "voluntarism" while encouraging work, savings and investment? Here are two elements of tax policy which I think could bridge one of the biggest chasms that divide us:

The first comes from Robert H. Frank, professor of economics at Cornell University. His idea of a progressive consumption tax advocates transitioning away from taxing income and moving increasingly toward taxing consumption. This plan would determine the amount of annual consumption by subtracting what one has saved from what one has earned. Additionally, it would exempt a substantial amount of consumption from being taxed and then taxing higher amounts of consumption at progressively higher marginal rates.

The benefit of this type of taxation is that it only taxes based on what people "voluntarily" purchase. Of course both progressives and libertarians would want the amount of consumption exempted to be very high. I would recommend at least $100K for a family of  four. Progressives would want tax progressivity enhanced, not undermined further. I would recommend taxing the second $100K of consumption at 10% and consumption above that up to a million at 20% and increasing the rate by 10 percentage points at each subsequent  million dollar margin with a cap of 80% for the highest marginal rate.

This would encourage savings and investments while curtailing inflation inducing consumption. I  have one question for Professor Frank, if anyone has his email: What about purchases for business expenses? Perhaps these purchases are exempted completely. I would be fine with that except I can see some clever trust fund kid incorporating himself and claiming all of his purchases as business expenses. Maybe a better method would be to exempt all business expenses up to $100K and half of them above that mark to $10 million and 25% for anything above that.

Some libertarians might still complain that 100% of business expenses should be exempted. I would agree if we could always agree as to what constitutes a business expense. Creative tax dodging is almost impossible to avoid, so I say exempt higher amounts of business expenses at lower rates so as to give big businesses some amount of incentive to keep costs down in order to fund more productive and real business purchases and expenses.

The second idea is my own. But allow me a brief interlude.

Some of the talk on the super committee (and I believe Ron Paul is right in calling this next hop on the road to tyranny as unconstitutional!!!) is about lowering rates while ending loopholes. You can be certain that with every loophole closed, two or more will open and no new revenue will be added unless an absolute cap is established on the total monetary value of all exemptions, deductions, rebates, credits and any other loopholes. A better and transitional deal would be this: Impose an absolute cap of $5 million in loophole value, reduce the number of marginal income tax rates to three (10%, 20% and 30%),  and establish a 10% annual consumption tax on annual spending above a million. That is a realistic compromise that the brain frozen, prefabricated policy making and political posturing duopoly has yet to think of.

My idea is to replace all tax deductions, credits, rebates and exemptions with a resident earned income tax credit voucher (REITCV) card. This card would be used for purchasing things like health care, public transportation, houses, education, solar panels, electric cars and whatever else congress deemed worthy of incentives.

How much would each individual have on her card? That amount would be based on her previous year's earned income. Let's look at 2 workers, one making $30K and the other making $90K in the previous year.  Worker 1 would have the first $25K matched at 40% and the next $5k matched at 30%, meaning she gets $11500 on her REITCV card. Worker 2 would receive 40% on the first 25k, 30% on the next 50K and 20% on the next 15K, meaning her REITCV card has 28K on it. The margins and rates could be adjusted as negotiated and perhaps increased during recessions, but here are my suggestions:

Earned Income      REITCV match
0 to 25K               40%
25+K to 75K        30%
75+K to 200K      20%
200+K to 500K    10%
500+K to 1M        5%
Above 1M             1%

The REITCV would encourage work and savings while giving incentive to socially redemptive behavior and spending. It does so in a progressive way, assuring underpaid workers just compensation for their hard work while giving small businesses a wage cushion to empower them to compete with larger companies. It would, if combined with compassionate and merciful immigration policies, bring workers out of the underground economy, thus further increasing revenues and preventing slave conditions. Finally, combined with Frank's idea, it would  move our country towards greater economic justice while encouraging more long term savings and investments. During our ongoing recession/depression, if phased in over 5 or 6 years, the REITCV and the PCT would encourage faster spending among wealthy consumers, thus providing a much needed boost to a depressed economy.

There might be one downside: millions of CPAs, tax attorneys and IRS agents filing for unemployment.

Libertarians will probably balk at the idea of such steep marginal rates favoring the "least productive," but they cannot say these ideas discourage investment. Much the opposite is true, and both would go a long way toward reducing governmental, business and personal debt. If enough spending is exempted at the bottom end, these two elements would be almost totally voluntary forms of revenue collecting. Everyone would still be required to file taxes but with a lot less headache. And this is already required. I do not think most libertarians are going to whine about a 99% increase in tax freedom.

If the top rate of 80% is still emotionally vexing, we might soften the sticker shock by lowering the top bracket(s) and establishing a value added tax while increasing the percentage for and broadening the margins of the REITCV.  We might kick it down another notch by tying tariff rates to human rights, labor, environmental and currency standards. Throw in a 60% tariff on Chinese imports, and we might get the top rate down to 50% on spending above 5 million.

We might even replace payroll taxes with the VAT for funding Social Security and Medicare. We might even be able to make that exchange of an opt-out for a public option. Oh... or better still, a hybrid system of Medicare for all supplemented by private catastrophic insurance. OK...I'll save that one for the 2016 campaign. But how about we cooperate now? Come on...sweeten the pot your way if you like. Again...you already know the alternative.