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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One Last Gasp, An Appeal to Wide Awake Progressives

Before the 2008 campaign I believed that the next president was headed for the same fate as Jimmy Carter, too much to clean up in too little time. Nowadays I am not sure. President Obama has a Reaganesque way of communicating and a Clintoneseque way of triangulating. Speaking a little left and a little right and governing a little right of center may just get him reelected despite persistent high unemployment and looming national debt. Most progressives would agree that what we need to deal with those 2 big issues is to increase domestic spending vastly on building the green economy in both the short and long term, to cut taxes substantially on working and middle class individuals and families, to increase taxes significantly on the wealthy, and to cut deeply spending on perpetual war and empire building and maintenance. 

Given all we have witnessed thus far from this administration, we can expect, at most, a half-hearted attempt to change the nation and an eager willingness to continue to stretch our military and hire mercenaries at the expense of making the investments we need in our domestic economy. I am now convinced that the president will become the next Lyndon Johnson, except he will probably run for and win a second term to do more of the same. The prophetic words of Martin Luther King are still ringing true. The green economy is being shot down on the battle fields of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and who knows where next.

I do not want to see this happen. I want to believe that the President is biding his time, waiting to gain a landslide mandate in 2012 so that he can finally do what he and we really want to do: end the wars and the corporate welfare state and replace it with a truly functional and peaceful green society. I want to believe but my faith is running on fumes. Rather than coast to a possible change in 2012, I am now determined to make my little effort to force the change before the next election. 

How? That is a tough question, one which is complicated by real fear. I fear that we are  far beyond the point of no return, that the neo-con strategy to drown the baby in the bath water has succeeded. I fear that another military Keynesian stimulus is right around the corner, that permanent war will be the permanent solution to our persistent economic problems. I fear that new jobs will come from  new armaments and more consumerism based on unending credit traps. I fear that most Americans have been beat into compliance and will be complacent with whatever savior brings us 7 percent unemployment. I fear that we have become permanently myopic about environmental and generational dangers and content to let jingoism, fundamentalism and all sorts of other addictive suppressants divert our attention while the wealthiest pick the pockets of the present and future poor. I fear the left is content to be able to say, I told you so. All of these fears tempt me to throw up my hands and walk away, find some oasis somewhere and wait for the apocalypse.

But maybe there is an outside chance that we can do something now to get the president's attention, to change the course toward where we thought were heading in November, 2008. A few whispers of a primary challenge have surfaced. If that plan gains traction, we will roll out the red carpet for Romney/Pawlenty  or its moral equivalent in 2012. I think another option holds greater promise; although, pulling it off will require hugely unconventional risk taking. What progressives need to do is to deliver a punishing blow to the conservative GOP establishment which will also serve as a real warning to the president and all the other capitulating corporatists who have successfully hijacked the Democratic party. Please hear me out because I know this is going to sound crazier than repeating the 1980 primary. 

We need to make a deal with Ron Paul. He is willing and we've got nothing to lose. Before you jump all over me with the obvious, let me say that the libertarian fantasy of laizzez-fairy tales is just that. There is no way that we make massive tax, spending and regulation cuts and get anything but massive unemployment and dog eat dog economic Darwinism. While Dr. Paul honestly believes we can create a better world through shifting most of the functions of government to the private sector, he also has a very realistic outlook on political compromises that have to be made before we can restore America to its prelapsarian free market glory he dreams of. He has stated very clearly, based on political realism and genuine compassion for the dependent poor, that he would pinch his nose to preserve entitlements for a while by savings gained from rolling back American empire building and maintenance. He has basically promised that increases in domestic spending are palatable if we will agree to a net cut in overall spending. 

The details of such a deal remain to be worked out but fortunately, unlike most politicians, Ron Paul has a proven track record of integrity. He does what he says he will do. President Obama has a bit of a mixed record. He did, as promised, escalate the conflict in Afghanstan. No sense rehashing where he has reneged on his promises; we all know what's gone down, but he just might keep another promise: a freeze on "domestic discretionary" spending for at least 5 years. We don't know all the details of that deal either, but with the wind at the back of a salivating GOP, he seems destined to do them the favor maybe even at 2008 spending levels. He has called for increased military spending even while he has occasionally advocated token, non-net cuts in obviously ridiculous weapons manufacturing fetishes. George W. Bush isn't criticizing the President and I am beginning to understand why.

Given the apostasy that is fast engulfing us, making a deal with an heretical angel seems almost divinely mandated. A pact with the Paulines is a desperate measure but these are desperate times. As I see it, 2016 is the earliest we have any chance of turning the ship of state around. That ship may sink completely before we can grasp the wheel but at a minimum, Ron Paul libertarians seem willing to give us life vests and maybe even a few seats on the lifeboat. If you think conditions are not so bad that we have to jump ship, it might be because you still have a computer and can afford a high speed connection. Turn off your docetic, disembodied, gnostic wasteland machine, get in your private transport, fill up your carbon tank, drive across town or out into the country side and take a clear-eyed look at the other America we speak so passionately about vindicating. They are abjectly impoverished portents of the third world dictatorship we are becoming. 

The plan is rather simple. The 2012 Democratic presidential primary is finished. Unless there is some serious primary in your state for a senator or a governor, change your registration to Republican and vote for Paul. We all know what happened to him in 2008 is likely to repeat in 2012 unless enough progressives jump ship. If enough of us switch for the caucus in Iowa and the primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina, in all three heats Paul can win or finish at least second in a large field of Palin and Romney clones.  A Ron Paul surge early on will be impossible to ignore and should provoke a ground swell of progressive subversives joining the coup. Some of us will be willing to do this only in the primaries but many of us can be persuaded that the progressive agenda will never gain traction until the military-pharmaceutical-carbon industrial complex is effectively crushed. Libertarians are on board with us to roll back corporate welfare and its host empire building and maintenance. 

Liberal and conservative corporatists are certain to give us nothing but lip service while they slash Medicare and social security and maybe spread a few crumbs around green ambitions. A four year coalition that preserves the best of our government by savings from slashing the MPCIC is not ideally what any progressive wants, but it's all we got and may become a bridge to a rebirth of hope. Wait to say, "I told you so" and have nothing to work with or hold your breath and dive in the cold water... it's our choice. In this emergency, I say,"Yes, we can. Dive in!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

10 ways Ron Paul libertarians can better communicate with progressives

In the following I will refer, unless otherwise noted, to RP libertarians as '"you" and  to progressives as "us" or "we".
1. Understand that you are not likely to convince us to change our minds about the role of government in the economy. Stress your willingness to make the Ron Paul compromise of increases in domestic spending in exchange for a  net cut in overall government spending, which would come primarily from wasteful and counter productive spending on so-called security and defense and on endless wars for empire building and maintenance.
2. When you speak out against President Obama's policies, don't make it personal, and acknowledge where you are in agreement with President Obama, particularly in his campaign promises. As often as you can, affirm his legitimacy and the pride you felt when he was elected as our first African-American president. This is not to say that you have ever agreed with much of what he has advocated or done. Many Americans from across the political spectrum felt his election was giant milestone in our nation's history. Acknowledge where he has kept his promises and speak calmly with an open ear about where he has failed to keep the promises we wanted so much, such as the public option and being totally out of Iraq. You can do this without necessarily agreeing with all that President Obama has or has not done. Call him President Obama at least whenever you speak with a democrat or a progressive you are trying to persuade.
3. Tell us how you are as disenchanted with the Republican party as we are with the Democratic party. Stop  using of the phrase "Democrat party." Talk more about what progressives and libertarians believe in common rather than the score board of the duopoly.
4. If you like many of us initially supported the invasion of Afghanistan, tell of how your mind has been changed and how you wish that the money spent in this war could have been used for something good in either the private or public sector.
5. By all means stress that you are sick and tired of the corporatist power structure which controls our government. All corporations are not evil but many are structured in such a way that maximizing profit requires  oppression of workers, disregard for community and family preservation and minimal care for the environment.  
6. Acknowledge that while you and we have our differences of opinion on economic issues, neither libertarians nor progressives will ever have a chance to advance any major causes until both get together to peacefully overthrow the corporatist regime that ignores both Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders and other honest public servants like them.
7. Let us know if you are in favor of any tax increases on legalized recreational drugs, pornography, etc. Tell us that you are willing to consider the idea of a progressive consumption tax as a replacement of the current income tax. Tell us that you are in favor of increasing tariffs on products made on the backs of oppressed labor markets like China.
8. Tell us you, like Ron Paul, believe in the right of workers to collective bargaining and civil rights for all which requires the pardoning of non violent drug offenders, the dismantling of the Patriot Act, the closure of Guantanamo Bay, the end of rendition, the legalization and/or decriminalization of recreational drug use and the maintenance of all constitutional rights. 
9. Enter into a respectful and creative discussion with us about what a coalition cabinet would look like. Tell us some names of progressives you would like to see in the Ron Paul cabinet.
10. Tell us you desire the reform and/or replacement of both parties with parties and independent candidacies which truly represent the will of their constituents. Tell us that this begins with getting Ron Paul nominated and that you are willing in future elections to help Democrats do the same with their party.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Compact answers

As I stated in my previous post, I have been overwhelmed with comments and questions from various sites and sources and don't have enough tie to answer each one individually. Below I will try to address some of the recurring comments and questions. If I miss yours, feel free to let me know and I'll try my best to get to everybody.

Has anyone offended me? No...various people express their opinions in various ways and I am not bothered by the differences between us. I'm sure we all agree the world would be a bit boring if we all thought alike.

What do I mean by the word, "progressive"? Here is the basic historical background for the term: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Era . I view it as a secular term for what Christians call sanctification. In a way it assumes an eschatology as well. We are moving toward a goal of human dignity for all in harmony with the rest of creation. Kingdom of God, Shalom, abundant Life, etc are Biblical terms that are most comfortable to me but I realize we must live with people of diverse religious and non religious beliefs and so progressive is a term which in some ways describes what a number of ethical traditions advocate. It is a rather broad term and I have no problem with Libertarians claiming it as their own as well. In the context of American history, if you wish to push me in a corner, I am politically descended from William Jennings Bryant (sans creationism, especially in its more contemporary mutations). When I use the word progressive, I am trying to capture both an ideal to which we are hopefully moving (peace with justice for all) and a realism about how it's not going to happen all at once this side of the final advent.
What is my political affiliation? I have always been a Democrat and tended toward the left side of that party. However, I like many others from both major American parties and across the political spectrum have come to believe that neither party represents ordinary people any more. Their function is basically rhetorical in nature and they serve effectively the same economic elites. Their real distinctions are insubstantial and mainly diversionary in nature. They are content to keep us arguing about cultural issues while they pick our pockets to load their purses. Generally speaking, Democrats are rhetorically cultural libertarians and economic interventionists while Republicans are cultural interventionists and economic libertarians. I emphasize the word, "rhetorically" because any fool who examines it for five minutes can spot the glaring inconsistencies in their game plans. Witness how they are opposite on a cultural issue like gun rights vs. gun control.  Witness how their primary donors are basically the same corporate folks. Republicans, whether consciously or not, are generally military Keynesians. Most Democrats support so-called "free trade" agreements. If there are any real differences, it is mainly about patronage, not ideology.
What do I believe is the role of government? As I have stated several times in various forums, wherever two or three are gather in the name of economics, government is ontologically there in the midst. If we shut down Washington completely we would still be ruled by the corporate boards and bosses of Wall Street. I believe the best government in this world is that which represents all the people and that such a government must have checks and balances and reflect the diversity of ideologies we find in society. I am therefore in favor of a parliamentary system of proportional representation. I think that we ought to get rid of the US Senate and the electoral college. I also think that some amount of direct democracy is legitimate but, on the whole, representative democracy is probably a bit saner. I believe that legitimate  representative government would work to implement the common will of the people. I think there is a consensus that representative government ought to intervene to provide safe,  affordable, quality and universal access to education, security, transportation, health care, communication and energy. This does not mean that I think that one central planning group should provide all of this. The main functions of a central government ought be to make sure that funding is available for these purposes in a roughly equitable manner and that reasonable minimum standards are adhered to by all. Working out the details of how these funds are utilized for these functions ought to be left up mainly to individuals and state and local governments in cooperation with private for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, businesses and individuals. In short, I believe in a mixed economy with a strong "little d" democratic element to balance a strong competitive element. Both statism and laissez-faire land way too many in bonds of perpetual poverty while privileging a few powerful people to nepotism, patronage and authoritarian rule. I don't expect absolute full employment and zero inflation will ever be attainable in this world but we ought to be shooting for a misery index below 5 percent. I think it is a moral travesty the way we fight inflation with unemployment and unemployment with inflation. I think a central bank is necessary for most nation states but that such banks should be controlled by a board of governors who are nationally elected or appointed by a truly democratically elected government. I would allow for competitive and local currencies though out the national economy along side a national currency and possibly other stable national currencies. I think we ought to have a national usury rate that is rigidly enforced. I think the gold standard would work only in a closed economy but such an economy will never exist. I believe that taxes ought to be mostly progressive. I would replace the current system of deductions, exemptions and convoluted loop holes for the wealthy, with individual resident earned income tax credit voucher (REITCV) cards (please do ask me about this). I would lower the pay roll tax to a total of 10 percent of wages and remove the cap altogether. I would eliminate property and income taxes and replace them with a progressive consumption tax consisting of a 20% VAT and  2 margins of surtaxes of 10% and 20% on annual individual spending above 250K and 1 million. I would not tax savings but I would levy a very small fee (maybe .01percent) on all stock purchases. And finally I would impose tariffs on nations according to their labor, consumer, environmental and monetary policies and human and civil rights so that, for example, products coming from the EU would be subject only to the 20% VAT and products coming from China would pay the VAT plus 50%. In an economic slump I would cut all taxes except import tariffs and accelerate government spending especially on transportation, communication, energy and education infrastructure. When inflation sets in I would increase interest rates and taxes and cut spending. If stagflation hits, I would want us to be prepared with  huge and diverse energy reserves, and stimulate quickly and boldly before we pump the brakes gradually but firmly.
If I have such a progressive agenda, why in world would I ever support Ron Paul? First of all, such a progressive agenda will never happen as long as the Obama defense and security budget looks basically the same as the Bush version. Second, Ron Paul has offered us progressives a better deal: increased domestic spending in exchange for a net overall cut in spending. President Obama has exempted military spending from any real cuts and advocated a 10 year freeze on domestic discretionary spending. I would not expect that Ron Paul would endorse, much less implement, much of what I stated above (although if you examine my ideas closely they constitute the beginnings of a new synthesis of libertarian and interventionist ideas and represent some potentially creative compromises for a coalition government). I am trying to persuade other progressives to get on board with the RP campaign not because we agree with him on every issue, especially not the economic ones, but because he represents the most realistic possibility of wresting control of our government from the corporate bosses, who are really in charge of both parties. I was very proud to vote for president Obama and truly wish I could do it again, but given what has happened since he took office, not because I have converted to a Randian view of reality (far from it), I have to vote for Ron Paul. I also sympathize with the idea of destroying the GOP as just punishment for its part in selling our country to the highest bidders. (I have different but in some ways similar plan for destroying the Democratic party for the same sin in a future election.)
Can I be made into your likeness? I know that many of my new libertarian friends are praying for me to see the light, and maybe one day I will, but for now I'd just like them to see me and other progressives as people with whom they need to make compromises if anything remotely resembling what Ron Paul advocates will ever stand the slightest chance of coming to fruition.
What's next? The next time I would like to try to share with these same friends some ideas about how they might better persuade progressives to join the alliance. (Hint: Ron Paul is a pretty darn good role model.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I promise to answer....

I never imagined that I would get so big a response to my initial article. Evidently for the first time in my life I have actually struck a chord with a significant number of people from across the political spectrum. Luckily for me this has not gone mainstream and although I hope my idea continues gaining mileage in various forums, large and small. Right now the inquiries are bit overwhelming and this is not my day job so I am apologizing to the increasing number of people who have asked me questions. I promise to try to make a composite answer here within the next week or so. Just have too many responsibilities right now to respond here in a timely way. I appreciate your enthusiasm and interest in hearing my opinions on various issues. My hope has been to not discuss policy too much (although I am very interested in public policy).However, I have come to understand that a part of the coalition building process is getting to know where everybody is coming from.  As a preliminary response let me say two things: First, I am not an economist and I while I have some strongly held convictions concerning economic theory and praxis, I have no formal training in the fields of finance, law or economics. I read widely but not professionally in these fields. I am not, therefore, going to attempt to debate the more arcane theories and research in fields that I am obviously not an expert. If you are wanting to engage me in this, you probably ought to look at academic professional journals rather than wasting time debating a lay person like myself. Second and lastly for now, several people have ask about my identity...I can assure you I am nobody famous and for several reasons at this time I would rather remain anonymous. I hope you can just take me at my word, I am not a right winger trolling among lefties, nor vice versa. I actually want  to pursue the possibility of a new coalition and maybe even a  new synthesis, not for theoretical purposes but for actual and practical political results. And ...no I am not running for political office of any sort! I will try my best to answer all of your questions as soon and as comprehensively as possible. Just please know that I am not wanting to be rude and I am not a professional blogger. Thank you all for your kindness, your curiosity and your patience.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I would like to know:

Ron Paul is willing to shift spending from empire building and maintenance to domestic spending if there is a net cut in total spending. I would advise Dr. Paul to give us specific numbers and compare them with Obama's 5 year freeze in domestic spending. Progressives who hear that Ron Paul is willing to invest more in the comprehensive green economy than Obama are bound to open their eyes and ears.


Here is an interesting endorsement on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R62ZlvPti8A