Popular Posts

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How to Make Meaningful Change Real, the Case for a Green Republican Strategy to Nominate and Elect Ron Paul

I do not endorse libertarianism even though, as a progressive , I do find myself in agreement with much of what libertarians advocate. Neither libertarians nor progressives like war, welfare (corporate especially but individual as well), prohibitions on drugs and other socially problematic behaviors, violations of civil liberties and human rights, and, yes, even fiscal waste and irresponsibility.

Neither do I endorse all of Ron Paul's principles or policy choices. I believe that federal, state and local governments have significant and positive roles to play in economic life. In fact, I question the basic assumption of libertarianism that economics and politics (government) can be ontologically separated. We will all be governed in our economic behavior either by elected officials or boards of corporations or by ourselves in contract with others we buy from and sell to.

What I do endorse is a strategy for changing American politics. This strategy is a bit different from the Blue Republican strategy which seeks to wake Democrats up to the realization that they are libertarians. The Blue Republican strategy has a limited appeal since most Democrats are not economic libertarians. I voted for Barack Obama because I believed him to be an economic progressive who wanted to build a peaceful green economy paid for by a more just tax system and by savings from ending wars and the military industrial catastrophe and its mirrors in a variety of industries such as energy, medical insurance, pharmaceuticals, big agribusiness, etc.

While his intentions may be different, his actions are contrary to his campaign promises. I do not believe that he has done no good. He has done good in many ways (http://whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com/ sic), and despite his expansion of wars, he has proven himself adept at moving the international community favorably in our direction. If he would end all 6 wars we are in right now, he might be known as our nation's greatest foreign policy president.

I do not blame him entirely for the state of our economy. He inherited the bulk of the mess and did what he could, given the urgency and limits of the moment, to stabilize markets. He has also had to contend with an obstructionist opposition hell bent on his political destruction and a Senate which has become non functional except to say no. I question whether he or any future president can ever get enough votes to pass a genuine, full-throttle progressive agenda.

It is this sense of inevitability rather than any dislike or even disagreement with the president which causes me to advocate electing Ron Paul. While I do not agree with Paul on a number of important economic issues, and I do not think he stands a chance of getting nominated through the conventional strategy of finding enough Republicans to vote for him, I do think there is a way to get him nominated and elected which will, in the end, benefit the progressive agenda.

Of course Ron Paul is no FDR or LBJ, much less McGovern, Kucinich or Sanders. Several legitimate reservations can and should be raised against his policy goals. He has no intention of using the federal government to bring about positive change in our economic system. His agenda is to miniaturize our federal government. He believes that the U. S. constitution, not just his consistent libertarianism, demands this. He interprets way too narrowly the interstate commerce clause, especially in our day when virtually every economic transaction is both interstate and global.

Going back on the gold standard in a global economy would be a disaster. We do need something like the federal reserve with some degree of independence, but I am all in favor of thoroughly and frequently auditing this central bank. I would prefer that its board of governors be elected directly by the people, but at a minimum they should be elected individually by congress at least once every 2 years.

The Civil Rights Act is still necessary and ought to be enforced vigorously and universally. I do not think that Ron Paul advocates racism but his willingness to let businesses determine who their customers will be is a recipe for racist actions which the market place alone could not overturn. If he is a racist, he does not intend to be.

Certainly Ron Paul would fight progressive reform at the state and local levels as well as the federal, but not for constitutional reasons. He believes that each state has the right to make abortion laws and single payer health care laws as well, even though he would oppose the latter and support the former on philosophical grounds. He is not likely to appoint the judge who overturns Roe v. Wade since Anthony Kennedy will probably retire under Obama. Even if he could send abortion rights back to the states, enforcement of strict prohibitions would yield swift backlash.

While Ron Paul is philosophically consistent and a man of his word, he is not inflexible. As evidenced by his transition plan (http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul647.html), he is realistic about what is politically possible and what is ethically and political necessary to implement the libertarian agenda over the long run. He is not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good if elected president. He realizes that congress can and probably will block many of his proposals, but he is not interested in a stalemate between filibuster and veto.

He is not a progressive in any way but he wants to make progress on his agenda of shrinking the size and scope of the federal government. He wants to so badly that he is willing to forego using half of the savings from corporate welfare and warfare reductions in his ilk's ideal way: tax cuts. He does want tax cuts, as much as possible, but he realizes that he would need 60 libertarian Senators to get all that he wants.

He also realizes that a great number of Americans are dependent upon social security, medicare, medicaid and the like and that kicking them off these programs immediately or any time soon for that matter would be highly unethical and politically suicidal. My guess is he wants all the baby boomers and maybe even people now in their 30s to get the full benefits promised by our government. Ironically, he would probably be less inclined than many Democrats to decrease retirement benefits in any manner. His presidency might, in this matter, be a case of Nixon going to China.

All that said, he does want eventually to end all entitlements, and to do this, he has a two pronged approach: First, use half of the savings from cuts in programs we progressives detest as much as libertarians do to shore up entitlements. Second, allow young people to opt out of the system altogether and not have to pay into it anymore. In other words he wants to shift how social security, etc. is paid for over the next generation or two from payroll taxes to savings from cuts in spending elsewhere. Eventually a new generation emerges who no longer need social security or medicare and have not paid for it anyway.

He believes, perhaps rightly, that the vast majority of young people just getting started in the work force would prefer to opt out of the system altogether so they can have more take home pay and more personal discretionary spending power. I cannot imagine any congress allowing this myopic fantasy to pass. The AARP would raise holy hell, and 60 Ron Paul clones would be needed in the Senate to make this dream come true.

Given that inevitability as well, I think progressives can make a deal with Ron Paul. Our part would be to let him have a vote on his opt out proposal in both the House and the Senate. The risks of this backfiring on us are infinitesimal while the risks of it destroying the Paul Ryans of this world are highly likely. We want him to promise that, after the votes are counted and President Paul takes an all too familiar legislative beating,  he will accept a deal specifying  that half of the savings from positive cuts goes in a different direction.

Progressives like myself would love to see this money go directly into federal government public works projects and contracts to build the green infrastructure and technology we desperately need to create jobs now and on into the future. Ron Paul will not go for this and would veto any legislation of the sort, and we will not have the votes to override that veto. However, he is probably open to sending that money with no strings attached directly to the states based exclusively on state populations. We would like to attach mandates restricting states' use of the funds, but unfortunately Paul would veto such a plan as well.

I know this is not ideal for progressives or libertarians. They want it all to go to deep tax cuts and there is no way in hell that we would trust Rick Perry not to hand oil billionaire's a blank check. However, we might be willing to let Texas continue on its pursuit of becoming the lone star banana and petro republic if California is allowed to use billions on building high speed rail, hemp textile and fuel factories, wind turbines and mandatory solar panels everywhere a business receives a penny of government funding. In other words, we could set up, at least for 4 years, a great contest to see which economic policies create the best-paying, safest and longest-lasting jobs for the most people.

My guess is the states will like this plan and the Senate will approve it. So here is the deal we need to make with Ron Paul: We agree with him to massive cuts in corporate welfare, warfare and empire building and maintenance. He agrees with us to send half to the savings back to the states with no strings attached and based strictly on state populations while using the other half to pay down debt. He gets a substantially smaller federal government role in the national economy with some states going all the way with him into free market wonderland. We get to actually implement real and unadulterated progressive economic policies in several heavily populated states and regions. Purple states like Virginia and North Carolina will probably do a mixture of progressive and libertarian things with their big chunks of change.

Again, none of this plan is ideal. I think we need a lot more money used for government stimulus nationwide, but given the current political environment, it's a better deal than we are getting now or would get in Obama II. I think that moving money in any direction at this point in time is going to have a positive effect, especially as states, businesses and individuals do not know how long the funds will be available.

Ron Paul is not specific about the numbers and certainly that is also something the deal ought to include. However, given the fact that we are spending about 1.3 trillion dollars annually on defense and other forms of false security, I estimate that at a minimum we could cut an average of 500 billion dollars annually. Transferring half of that to state budgets would mean one trillion dollars gets pump into the economy over 4 years time and it is very unlikely that more than half of that gets passed on in the form of tax cuts. Even then, most states would have to come up with ways to pass tax reform that helps the poor and middle income folks as much as it does the rich. Even voters in conservative states, seeing the crumbling of their public education structures, roads and bridges, are are not likely to support giving this money away to people who already have more than they could ever spend.

Let's just say you are not convinced that Ron Paul will go for this compromise or that even if he did, the consequences would be economically disastrous. Do you then stay in the Democratic primary even when there are no truly competitive races down ticket involving progressive candidates? I think that would be a very insipid voting strategy.

A wiser voting strategy would be for progressives to jump ship and get Paul the nomination or at least as close to it as possible. Imagine this very realistic scenario: Paul stays in the race with at least 2 competitors: a Romney clone and a Palin clone. It is likely, given enough determined progressives that Ron Paul goes into the GOP Tampa Bay convention next year with a plurality of votes (around 35 % is all he would probably need in a 3 way race) and a bare majority of the delegates (50.1%).

Think for a minute about what that convention looks like. The two clones gang up and form a ticket with 65% of the popular vote and 49.9 percent of the delegates. Chicago 1968 becomes a church festival compared to what will happen under such a scenario. It can happen if enough progressives see the light, not in terms of policy, but in terms of politics. If progressives get politically wise, there will be a third party in the general election, and Obama, if he wins back angry progressives, will win a second term with a GOP in total disarray.

There would be ample opportunity with a progressive insurgency to make even more trouble in the GOP primaries. We could, in congressional as well as state and local races, vote for libertarian candidates or for extremist tea party types who stand less of a chance of winning against a Democrat in a November. 60 libertarian or 60 progressive Senators is a fool's dream, but a coalition of 60 libertarian Republicans and progressive Democrats in the Senate is politically doable.

With such a coalition in place, the priorities for budget cuts would radically change.  A deal similar to the one I have describe could happen under an Obama administration with such a coalition in place, but not without it. And if Obama faces Paul in November, the Democratic nominee for president will not have to prove he is  steroid strong on defense but very willing to slash entitlements to somehow reach a balanced budget.

For once let's make it a debate progressives can actually win, a debate about how much to slash war and violence spending and how much to invest on domestic priorities. It happens with a coalition. It's more of the same corporate pick-pocketing without libertarians and progressives joining forces to seize the only, and perhaps last, chance either will ever have to make meaningful change real in America.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Daily Show: Robin Koerner or Ron Paul?

I would be interested to see Robin on the show but it would be much more useful if JS brought Ron Paul back on the show and asked him about his transition plan: http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul647.html

In this plan Ron Paul wants to prioritize making deep cuts in coporate welfare and military and security spending, ending current wars immediately, drawing down bases overseas and defunding the military industrial complex. He wants to devote half of the savings to pay down the debt and half to shoring up entitlements for those who are dependent. He proposes transferring these funds so that young people can opt out of the system. We progressives will not be alone resisting this idea and I am confident that it will not pass.

JS needs to call Ron Paul on this and then ask him if his opt out idea does not pass congress, what will become of that 50% of the savings. Does it still go into social security? Ron Paul is not going to want to overfund entitlements which is exactly what will happen if his opt out proposal fails. Will it go for more deficit reduction or more tax cuts? Those are the libertarian ideals and Ron Paul can say yes that is all that the savings can be used for, if not for entitlement transitioning.

That would be a dream come true for Koerner and the libertarian blue crowd, but leaving aside the economic catastrophe this would cause, it will mean that he does not get elected president. Ron Paul wins the presidency only by getting progressives on board. He would be president now if all that was needed to persuade progressives is end the the wars, defund the MIC and the drug war and restore civil liberties. He said that in 2008

In the alternative of trying to woo Democrats by convincing them that they are actually libertarians, Ron Paul could answer this question by saying, "John, I am willing to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from the exact same programs that Bernie Sanders wants to cut and then send half of what we save directly to the states to use as they see fit with no strings attached. They can use it for tax cuts or building green infrastructure, funding public education or whatever the states desire.  I do not think President Obama wants to give California and New York that amount of money to implement their progressive agendas any more than he wants to grant funds to Texas and Florida to implement their conservative agendas. I say let's make a 4 year experiment. Give the states the funds according to their populations and let's see what policies create jobs,  I am taliking about sending at least a trillion dollars back to the states to invest in the private sector the public sector or both while using the same amount to pay down our national debt."

If Jon Stewart could ask this question and Ron Paul could give the sort of answer I just suggested, he would turn the politics of our day upside down. If he answers with the usual tax cuts and debt reduction, look to see a Romney clone forcing Obama to prove he's not soft on defense or a big spender for poor people. So Jon get Ron Paul back on the show and give him a chance to make history. I suspect Robin would rather have Ron Paul in the White House than himself on your show.


Would you sign this Letter to Congressman Ron Paul?

I am open for suggestions for revisions of the following:

Dear Dr. Paul:

We write to you as progressive Democrats, Greens and Independents because we share your genuine concern for the future of our country. We are in a grave crisis with soaring public, business and personal debt compounded by chronic high unemployment, global economic uncertainty, excessive and imperialistic militarism, and cavalier disregard for our constitutional liberties and human rights by top leaders in both major parties and in all  three branches of government.

While we do not agree with you in some important matters of  interpretation of the constitution and the role of government in the economy, we agree with you that we need to restore civil liberties, and reduce wasteful spending, particularly in areas of defense and security where our spending is grossly counterproductive to our national interests and ideals.

We also realize that your nomination and election will require cooperation from a broad coalition of Americans. We want to be an important component in that coalition and believe that there are creative ways we can work with you in getting you elected and in establishing policies for healing our nation. We would like  for you to thoughtfully consider the following proposals for establishing a libertarian and progressive coalition government:

1. Name a coalition cabinet ahead of the general election which is composed of progressives and libertarians  in both economic and defense and foreign policy posts. We suggest that some of these should be named early in the primary season and the rest soon after the GOP convention.

2. Modify your transition plan by stating that half of the savings from reductions in wasteful spending will be designated  as unconditional grants for the states based exclusively on the population of each state.

3. State your willingness to consider broad tax reform including the possibility of a progressive consumption tax and merit rated tariffs to replace our current income tax.

4. Endorse progressive Democrats in primary and general election races where there are no libertarians running and encourage crossover voters in the Republican primaries to vote for libertarian candidates.

These actions will not violate your libertarian principles but will significantly reduce the fiscal size of the federal government, localize more of the domestic policy decision making, and attract the attention of millions of progressive voters. They constitute a winning coalition strategy and the beginning of much needed governmental reforms. We expect that with the implementation these policies, we can greatly increase jobs creation, debt reduction and positive, peaceful relationships throughout the world.

We are more than happy to discuss with you further the components of this coalition strategy for winning the election and healing our nation.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Zak, if Robin makes it on the Daily Show, this is what he needs to say:

Context: http://forums.thedailyshow.com/?page=ThreadView&thread_id=45103

Thanks Zak for trying to get Stewart to follow up on his recent sympathetic remarks. Hopefully Robin Koerner will get an opportunity to make his case for Ron Paul on an upcoming show, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking what Robin is saying is going to win over the necessary number of Democrats needed for a Ron Paul coup.

 Blue dogs are not coming our way because they are too tied to their districts' dependency on the MIC. Moderates are loving what the president is doing. And progressives, they are unimpressed by the pitch, "Since we libertarians are right on everything and you progressives agree with us on some of these things, come on board and do everything the libertarian way so we can defeat the president."

The typical knee jerk reaction of a progressive to this appeal is something like, "Have you not heard that Paul is against the civil rights act?" And they are not falling for the dissembling retorts about Ron Paul's unyielding support for civil liberties.

Hemp peace is great but Ron Paul and his supporters need to clarify and amplify what will happen to that 50% of savings from cuts in empire building and maintenance after Paul's opt out dream fails to make it through congress. If it can be stated by Paul and embraced by supporters like Robin that those funds go back to the state's unconditionally based strictly on each state's population, Stewart and other thoughtful progressives may be prompted beyond sympathy to commitment. Until then don't translate kind words for an underdog as an endorsement.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's a bit trite and much more ineffective

Got an email today from John Tate blaming the establishment for the cyberattack on the campaign's web site. If it happens that an operative from one of the Romney clones did this, wouldn't it be best to not say anything until you know it for sure?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What the President could do to get me back on board for the PRIMARY...

I am not sure at this point how the president can get me to feel good about voting for him. I am going to vote for him if Ron Paul is not nominated or a viable coalition alternative does not form. However, I would like to vote for him, believing he would advocate the right policy. The right policy would be make massive cuts in the military industrial catastrophe and apply the savings to massive government contracts to build the peaceful green economy.

Of course, anybody can tell you the political winds are massively against any more stimulus. Even if the President  made an about face and pushed for the stimulus our economy needs, he needs 60 progressive Senators to get it done. That was not possible 3 years ago and it is certainly not going to be possible 2 years from now. I see another 4 years of slow job growth if he is re-elected.

Unfortunately the only viable jobs creation plan coming from conventional politics is a policy of massive tax cuts combined with massive war stimulus and lax environmental and labor regulations. Look for huge increases in defense contracts and domestic oil and gas subsidies should a Romney clone get elected. And unfortunately, war and cheap gas are easy to sell, especially when the alternative is opaque green and extending tax cuts most folks don't know are already showing up in their paychecks (if they are getting one, of course).

A Romney clone victory and a substantial war stimulus will do huge damage to progressive policy making for years to come. I therefore cannot, for the life of me, see why progressives are not pushing infiltration to overthrow the Republican party.

Progressives need to change the debate. A Ron Paul coup means the general election debate becomes how much to cut empire building and maintenance budgets and how to use the savings from such cuts. A Romney clone opponent means Obama tries to prove he is not soft on defense and fiscal austerity. A Paul v. Obama campaign gets a larger number of libertarians and progressives in the Senate, maybe enough to slash the military industrial catastrophe.

So someone tell me again why I should vote in the primary for President Obama. Please give me or any other progressive one good reason to stay in the Democratic party for the primary!

John Stewart

Monday, August 15, 2011

Good showing is mixed blessing

The media discounting Paul's tie with Bachmann in the Ames, Iowa straw poll is par for the course. Undoubtedly, a candidate cannot gain traction when he's constantly dismissed as unelectable and then when he does well in a respected poll, he gets skipped in the headlines and barely mentioned in the text. This will anger and motivate his loyal followers but will it be enough to win?

Pawlenty is out and Perry is in so Paul will probably fair as well in future polls as long as the field is crowded. After New Hampshire, the field will probably winnow to him, Perry, Romney and Bachmann. He may be able to nudge in some second place finishes on super Tuesday. If he gets a first place anywhere the media will find a reason to dismiss it.

If Bachmann or Perry folds, Paul faces a harder road with his plateau firmly in place. Second place is meaningless and he is not getting to the top with out a real coalition. I hate to belabor this point but someone has to keep saying it until the strategy is implemented or rejected.

Friday, August 12, 2011

RCP poll averages has Paul in 5th: Is there a way through inertia to victory?

Here's the link: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/us/republican_presidential_nomination-1452.html

With Ron Paul in 5th place and averaging just under 9% of the polls, He must ask the question: Is this campaign just an educational venture or do I need to win? My guess is he finishes third in the first 3 states and maybe even second in one of them.In a 3 way race he needs to be polling at 35%. I don't know if his campaign has begun to assess what he looks like in a race among him, Romney, and Bachmann.

My guess is they hope for this to become a 4 way race after Perry gets in. His odds do improve if Perry takes votes from the other two clones, but if Paul finishes first in one of the first 3 states, we will see at least one of the clones drop out. The GOP does not want a nightmare in Tampa Bay and will do everything possible to keep Paul's supporters on the edge, hopeful but out of reach of the nomination. FOX, MSNBC and the rest of the mainstream media will not challenge this conventional strategy even if it might make for better ratings.

That strategy will prevail unless Paul begins to see this race as bigger than his libertarian dreams. He has a realistic side to his politics as best illustrated in his transition plan. He needs to refocus on that plan asap and reconstruct it as a coalition plan which intentionally appeals to both libertarians and progressives, calling them to acknowledge political realty and to form a temporary partnership to fix a broken political system.

Short term, the goal has to be deal with the disagreement about how to deal with the two headed monster of joblessness and debt. Libertarians want to remedy joblessness by further taxes cutting and deregulation. Progressives want to kill that same head by direct government intervention through big work projects, particularly building green infrastructure through federal government contracts.

Libertarians and progressives both want to deal with the debt crisis by cutting significantly into wasteful and counterproductive spending. Wars on drugs and terror, the US security umbrella, corporate welfare and exotic and useless weapons systems are among the big items that both ideologies are more than happy to hack off.

Progressives believe that some amount of tax increases are needed to further reduce the debt. Libertarians think that taxes need to be reduced and paid for by further reductions in government spending. It is this disagreement which  prevents a viable coalition from being formed.

How do we bridge this gap without alienating the ideological purists on both sides? I am not sure. My experience with both groups has taught me the depth and height of obstinacy and denial.  Denial takes the form of "join with us and do it our way only" from the libertarians (Koerner's Blue Republicans in particular). Progressives think that Ron Paul's cultural conservatism and opposition to treasured programs like Social Security and Medicare make it way too risky to vote for him. Meanwhile they are still hoping against hope that Obama's true progressive colors will show through after he is reelected and that the American people will demand that the Senate stop thwarting the people's will with super majority requirements.

Both sets of denial are ludicrously naive. No politician is going to be able to rid the world of Social Security and Medicare, and thankfully Ron Paul knows this is true, at least over the course of the next several years. He thinks that congress should grant young people an option out of this system of government nannyism, and certainly some  myopic and confident youth and young adults would like to have the extra cash to do as they please. However, a congress that knows who votes is not going to do this.

Progressives hold out hope that raising taxes on the super rich is doable. This is only a tad more realistic, but even though such a modification is popular, the US Senate will not let this through as long as few  as 41 of their body oppose it. There are enough Democrats, blue dog and otherwise, who are not going to want middle income families to have a tax increase and the only way to prevent that from happening is to allow the Bush rates to continue. If unemployment drops below 7 %, this calculus might change but unfortunately our current policies will not make that happen before the election.

The wishful thinking on the libertarian side that taxes could be reduced even more without a Senate super majority ought to be enough to convince both sides that we are doomed to lowest common corporatistic denominator policy making unless a new coalition is formed.

One would hope that the highest common denominators of civil liberties and anti-imperialism in a time of grave economic uncertainty would be enough to build this coalition. Alas, uncertainty tends to freeze us in the familiar. Political inertia is the most probable forecast and a sudden crisis (beyond what we are currently experiencing) is unlikely to do anything other than put another clone in the White House.

The only hope is for Ron Paul to up the ante by intentionally inviting progressives in to form a real coalition which grants more latitude on how to spend savings from cuts in empire building and maintenance. The compromise I have suggested is to let Ron Paul get a vote on his opt out  proposal and when that fails in the Senate (and probably the House as well), allow half of the savings to go directly and unconditionally to the states for use as they see fit. This compromise allows progressives to start building the peaceful green economy in liberal states and libertarians to cut taxes in conservative states. Not an ideal world for either ideology but neither is such a compromise a violation of anybody's principles.

The political forces weighing against such a coalition are massive but not insurmountable. Ron Paul can begin this hard climb right now by going to Sanders, McKinney and Kucinich and offering them a seat a the table and if they desire, a place in the cabinet. I think Kucinich would, under conditions like I describe, jump at the chance given the reality that his district is going to be destroyed and his prospects in Washington state are not great.

His endorsement alone will not do it, but if McKinney, Sanders and Nader join in, progressives will perk up and listen. If Bob Barr and Jessie Ventura stand with them in such an endorsement, libertarians can be reassured that the Dr. has not developed dementia and they can follow him without fear to decrease the size of government, restore civil liberties and bring troops and money back to America.

You may be like I, a person of little influence, but if you think that such a plan has merit, why not send a link to this post to your friends and to the offices of Paul, Kucinch, others mentioned above and whoever else you think could help? Just a thought. Just a thought.... Peace.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wow... crank up the bomb factory.

If any of the other candidates get nominated, we know the jobs bill ... war stimulus. Progressives, why not make the the debate in the general election be about how much we should cut of the military industrial complex rather than about who is willing to spend the most to defend our nation? Libertarians, do you really think that you are going to get many more Republicans to vote for Paul given the way they talk about Iran? 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Other voices from the left:

Unlike Koerner but like myself, these two are real progressives, not libertarians. O! for a thousand tongues to sing or better yet, lift every voice and sing:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Crashing the Party and the Likely Policy Course of a Ron Paul Presidency

This in many ways is a counter intuitive argument since Ron Paul is a libertarian in every respect. He does see eye to eye with progressives like Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders on war and peace, civil liberties, drug policy and foreign policy. He even opposes NAFTA and other corporatist trade deals. However, in general, Paul sees almost all federal government intervention in the economy as unconstitutional and/or hazardous to economic health.

Despite real differences on economic issues there are several reasons for progressives to embrace the unconventional strategy of jumping ship to join Republican primaries and vote for Ron Paul. The main reason is our president has governed in a conservative way and that governance has led to almost no job growth. Whether his motives are good or not is irrelevant. We cannot expect him to fulfill his progressive promises once he is re-elected, especially given the likelihood that Republicans in congress will block any attempt to make progressive reforms of any sort.

So how is voting for Ron Paul going to change this? First of all Ron Paul wants to make massive cuts in military spending. He not only wants to immediately end the wars we are in now, he wants to bring troops home from hundreds of foreign bases around the world. He wants to end the stupid and wasteful war on drugs. This could mean at least $500 billion in annual savings. Paul wants to use half the savings to pay down debt and half to shore up social security and medicare.

Why would a consistent libertarian like Paul want to put more money into social security and medicare? He dreams of a day when young people can opt out of this system and when they do, there needs to be extra funds available for those already in the system. Progressives as well as moderates from both parties are not likely to allow this to happen for very obvious reasons. When they squash this fantasy, Ron Paul has to make a deal about what to do with that money? Putting all of it into Medicare and Social Security will be unnecessary and Paul is not likely  to unconditionally deposit extra funds into the two largest government social programs.

Instead he is likely to want that half to go toward deep tax cuts and/or more debt reduction. He will have to make a deal with congress, one which has a few more libertarians and progressives resulting from the 2012 Paul vs. Obama race. That will give progressives an opportunity to do what Obama has not done: provide significant, immediate and long term funding for building the peaceful green economy.
Progressives might be able to work with Paul on tax reform by replacing the income tax with a progressive consumption tax.  At a minimum, the new congress could agree with him to greater reductions for 99% of all tax payers in exchange for a minor increase for the top 1% (which btw Democrats could propose now and save themselves from political ruin).

Progressives will probably want to directly fund green infrastructure but Paul and his allies on the right will most likely block this move. Progressives will then try to send the money to the states with a mandate. That will probably not work either. Finally progressives will agree to let the money go to the states unconditionally. That's not ideal as some states will take advantage of the opportunity to give more tax breaks to the rich. If however the money is divided according to state populations, much of the money will go into the hands of more progressive states since they tend to be also the more highly populated ones (Texas and Florida being the biggest exceptions). In any case, progressive states can vote to use the money for single payer systems, high speed rail, schools, teacher salaries, etc.

Paul is unlikely to run a second term given his age, but a one term coalition of libertarians and progressives will be very different from what we have now, Democrats bending over backwards to prove they are strong on defense and fiscal austerity. Such a one term coalition is likely to have long term effects, perhaps forcing cultural conservatives to form a separate political party and maybe even putting a few loan sharks and neo-cons in jail. More likely, it will give the American people an opportunity to compare two very different economic strategies and maybe find a new synthesis.
This may be a long shot political strategy and I don't doubt the odds that are against Ron Paul. He will not win without a large number of progressives infiltrating the GOP.

Progressives are frustrated. They do not have the president they voted for and running a Feingold against him in the Democratic primary is a sure fire strategy for further weakening Obama and getting us the first Mormon president. There are very few down ticket races that are not already predetermined so with few exceptions there is no reason not to jump ship. Jumping ship for the primaries does not prevent progressives from voting for Democrats in the general election. In fact, progressives could vote for down ticket extremists to provide Democrats with weak competition in the general election. Alternatively, progressives could help nominate libertarians to compete against blue dogs in the general election.

Finally, can you imagine the GOP convention? With this strategy in place,  chaos worse than 1968 Chicago breaks out along with actually real entertainment on TV for all the nation to see. Can you think of any more fitting punishment for a party that has done so much damage to our culture, economy and political process? That's a party worth crashing.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Now One for Progressives

Imagine for a moment McCain is president. It's 2 days after Super Tuesday  2012. Two candidates have emerged from the pack. Candidate A is calling for a freeze on domestic discretionary spending and cuts in social security and medicare benefits. Candidate B is calling for a 50% cuts in defense and security spending. From those cuts, B wants to use half to pay down debt and half to increase domestic spending. Who are you going to vote for?

Shoe on the other Foot Analogy for Libertarians

Imagine for a moment a counter factual history. Mitt Romney is elected president in 2008. He carries on the neo-con policies of military Keynesianism cloaked in the cover of the rhetoric of free enterprise. 2012 rolls around and Libertarians are understandably frustrated with the way Romney has governed. 

The Democratic presidential primary is heating up. The usual suspects are in the mix including our Quixotic Kucinich. He goes about calling for the Fed to be audited and for congress to take back its constitutional authority to print money, the need to roll back not only the wars but the military industrial complex, and the need to restore civil liberties, etc. 

All of this basically appeals to libertarians but then Kucinich is very explicit that he does not want to decrease the size of government but instead wants to provide all of the savings from pentagon spending for use in building the peaceful green economy. On top of that he wants a much more progressive income tax structure. 

Meanwhile Romney throws the occasional bone to libertarians about reducing the size of government and lowering and flattening taxes below the current Bush margins while complaining about the obstructionist Democrat party in the congress. Who are libertarians going to vote for? Most likely they are going to stay with Romney or vote for the Libertarian party candidate despite the broad areas of agreement they have with Kucinich. 

Now imagine further that Kucinich sees the handwriting on the wall and knows that he is not getting elected without a stronger outreach to libertarians. What do you think he's going to do? Jump up and down screaming louder about ending the warfare government and restoring our civil liberties? Very few libertarians are going to even glance his way except maybe to see if Elizabeth is standing beside him during his rhetorical vertical leaps. 

If instead he says, "Look... I know that we are in a debt crisis and that I am not going to get tax reform and significant domestic spending increases unless I am willing to make some concessions. I tell you what... I will reduce my spending proposals by half and apply the other half to paying down our national debt. Additionally, I am going to get rid of the income tax and replace it with a progressive consumption tax and incentivized tariffs so that 98% of all Americans get their taxes reduced below the current Bush margins. Any new revenue gained from such reform I will apply 100% to the paying down the debt."

Libertarian hearts start racing and their feet get to moving as they prepare to jump ship. 

Excerpt from conversation with Robin Koerner on Blue Republican FB page

  •  Robin, Am I right to assume that you have always been libertarian in your economic thinking? I ask this question not to pick a quarrel but to point out that this site will be ineffectual in reaching progressive Democrats if it does not tackle the economic philosophical difference. By tackle I do not mean to convert the progressive to libertarian economics. Instead what needs to happen is to promote and build upon Ron Paul's transition plan which calls for deep cuts in empire building and maintenance to be used equally for debt reduction and shoring up social security and medicare. The sticking point would be that we will not need that much to shore up these programs except that Ron Paul wants this as a spring board for young people to opt out of the system. What progressives need to know is that when the opt out goes the way of the public option that the funds are made available for other domestic concerns. If Ron Paul can say yes to that, he can have millions of progressives moving towards him. This is the only way he gets nominated and it does not change the dollar amount of his debt reductions a single dime. This is what Paul needs to clarify and what libertarians such as yourself ought to play up as big as possible. If your focus is on converting blue dogs then good luck with that. Blue dogs are hooked on military contracts and a waste of time. Progressives are the only major group in play. If you want to say help us stop wars and restore civil liberties and let us take complete control of economic policy, you have as much chance as we would of getting you to support Kucinich for president in 2016.

  • Thanks BR for your thoughtful response. I would classify myself as a pragmatic progressive who sees the mixed economy as usually producing the best outcomes. Tempting as it is to get into a philosophical discussion or even an economic policy discussion, I would like to focus on the political question, what will get Ron Paul in the White House so he can do what is needed to bring us beyond this corporatist crisis? The only way I see Ron Paul getting elected is through the formation of a libertarian/progressive coalition. He has to therefore reach out to progressives without betraying his ideals. I am sure you are familiar with his transition plan. In it he wants to devote 50% of the savings from cuts mostly in military adventures and policing overseas to shoring up the social safety net. Some might think he has violated his principles with such a concession. I do not. He is doing so because he realizes a giant change will not come overnight without grave suffering on the part of those who are dependent on the current system. He is also motivated by the desire to establish a means by which young people can opt out of the system. He knows they cannot be given the freedom to leave the system high and dry while millions are still in the system. Again this is not a compromise on principles but an attempt to be realistic about the means to reach this goal. The goal is a significant reduction in federal government spending and a shift away from federal interventionism to local responsibility. The means includes economic concessions of a specific amount going towards federal intervention for the purpose of providing economic security to those in need.

  •  If we can start with that conversation, we can see how this ought to attract progressives. We are proud of how social security and medicare have lifted millions of seniors out of poverty (although I am sure you will dispute that). So when we see that Ron Paul is going beyond your paradigm of liberty as the means to equality to a an additional paradigm of social intervention as a means to liberty, we progressives are encouraged. That is where you are going to move progressives. You can't do it with the same old join us... we will do what we like together and what we disagree on we will do my way. 

  •  Imagine for a moment a counter factual history. Mitt Romney is elected president in 2008. He carries on the neo-con policies of military Keynesianism cloaked in the cover of the rhetoric of free enterprise. 2012 rolls around and Libertarians are understandably frustrated with the way Romney has governed. The Democratic presidential primary is heating up. The usual suspects are in the mix including our Quixotic Kucinich. He goes about calling for the Fed to be audited and for congress to take back its constitutional authority to print money, the need to roll back not only the wars but the military industrial complex, and the need to restore civil liberties, etc. All of this basically appeals to libertarians but then Kucinich is very explicit that he does not want to decrease the size of government but instead wants to provide all of the savings from pentagon spending for use in building the peaceful green economy. On top of that he wants a much more progressive income tax structure. Meanwhile Romney throws the occasional bone to libertarians about reducing the size of government and lowering and flattening taxes below the current Bush margins while complaining about the obstructionist Democrat party in the congress. Who are libertarians going to vote for? Most likely they are going to stay with Romney or vote for the Libertarian party candidate despite the broad areas of agreement they have with Kucinich. 

  •  Now imagine further that Kucinich sees the handwriting on the wall and knows that he is not getting elected without a stronger outreach to libertarians. What do you think he's going to do? Jump up and down screaming louder about ending the warfare government and restoring our civil liberties? Very few libertarians are going to even glance his way except maybe to see if Elizabeth is standing beside him during his rhetorical vertical leaps. If instead he says, "Look... I know that we are in a debt crisis and that I am not going to get tax reform and significant domestic spending increases unless I am willing to make some concessions. I tell you what... I will reduce my spending proposals by half and apply the other half to paying down our national debt. Additionally, I am going to get rid of the income tax and replace it with a progressive consumption tax and incentivized tariffs so that 98% of all Americans get their taxes reduced below the current Bush margins. Any new revenue gained from such reform I will apply 100% to the paying down the debt. Libertarian hearts start racing and their feet get to moving as they prepare to jump ship. I hope this analogy is helpful in explaining what I see missing from your appeal, I do not disagree with your appeal. I only say that if it were effective, Ron Paul would be running for reelection to the white house in 2012.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Plan B since it looks like we might need it

If as seems likely Ron Paul does not win the nomination, he and we may want to consider a a coalition ticket running against Obama and the GOP nominee. A few months ago I would have said no to this idea but given the current situation of plans to cut social programs as deeply as military, I have begun to have second thoughts.

The president has conceded too much and it is naive to believe that the constitutionally questionable super congress is  going to do anything but reject progressive tax reform. The most that the president would be able to do it seems is to allow all of the Bush tax cuts to expire which would put added burdens on middle income folks. The bottom line is the president has completely abandoned the progressive economic agenda.

I do hold out hope for Ron Paul getting the nomination but the outreach to progressives is slow. It may be that the campaign wants that outreach to be grassroots oriented rather than official so as not to offend Republican voters. He may gain some ground with cultural conservatives with that strategy but with there being several violence loving cultural conservative candidates in the race, his gains there will be severely limited.  The cultural conservatives who would vote for him are not the type who harbor paranoid views about progressives, so I don't think this current unofficial outreach strategy has any merit. Unless he openly courts progressives for crossover votes, the primary is lost.

If the primary is lost, Ron Paul needs to reach out to progressives and form a candidacy, complete with running mate and proposed cabinet. Under plan A,  I have suggested that Gary Johnson be Paul's running mate. Under plan B, I would suggest Johnson be appointed OMB director and make Dennis Kucinich Vice President.

 I would suggest that Paul hold off on naming Secretary of State and hint that he might want Obama to take that role. Obama, despite his fumbles, still has respect in the international community, and candidate Paul openingly considering this possibility would allay fears of isolationism and extremism. Joe Biden might also be considered for this post.

Defense might also be kept open and John McCain's name be mentioned; although, his apprehnsion toward substantial pentagon cuts might disqualify him. In the alternative, Jesse Ventura has long been a Ron Paul fan and has proved he is more than an entertainer. If not this post, Ventura ought to be recommended for CIA Chief or National Security Advisor. Ventura, being the patriot that he is, will deflect charges of isolation and treason that will  inevitably arise as deep cuts are made in the military industrial complex.

As Commerce Secretary, Paul might consider appointing the great job killer, Mitt Romney to fire himself by closing the department if he cannot show that it really does support job creating businesses. Again, shield against extremist charges. In the alternative, appoint Romney ambassador to France and give the position to Ralph Nader because what we need now in our commerce is a real extremist advocating fair and open trade.

At Labor under plan A, I have advocated Kucinich and I am not changing my mind by pushing for Bernie Sanders. Sanders could also serve as Treasury Secretary but let's do something for ordinary Americans for a change and make Elizabeth Warren the woman who signs our notes. If Bernanke does not open the books and vaults, fire him immediately and put Robert Reich in his place.

At Agriculture give Jim Hightower the mission to end subsidies for giant agribusinesses while encouraging local producers, farmers' markets, farmers' cooperatives and hemp. Throw the cultural conservatives a bone and tell Secretary of Interior Sarah Palin to get back to her redistributive populist roots in her dealings with big oil. Keep her in line by making Robert Kennedy, Jr. head of the EPA.

While Attorney General Napolitano prosecutes her husband and the rest of the bipartisan gang of war criminals, put Laura Bush in charge of dismantling No Child Moving Ahead while empowering responsible, intelligent, creative and enthusiastic teachers and local school districts with the funding, support and recognition they need and deserve. If she can get that in place locally everywhere, grant President Paul his wish and close the doors.

Let Jessie Ventura appoint an undersecretary for homeland security to dismantle it and merge what is working with agencies in the defense, intelligence and state departments. While he is at that, have Howard Dean merge the DEA and the ATF with Health and Human Services.

Appoint Michael Dukakis to build a real interstate high speed rail system supplemented by well funded state and local public transportation systems. Let him work out a trust busting and jobs replacing  agreement with the Boeing, Lockheed, etc. to build a new generation of larger, faster, more fuel efficient commercial airplanes. Put the FCC under his wings and make affordable universal high speed internet a reality. Pay for all of this by raising the gasoline tax to a dollar a gallon with discounts of a penny for each percent of renewable fuels and by selling the Interstate highway system to states and private companies.

I am sure my libertarian friends would like to replace a number of these appointees while my progressive friends are spewing hot coffee all over their keyboards when they read a few names. In the end what needs to be done is a to name a truly trans-partisan executive branch after the primaries and ahead of the general election while sticking to a modified version of Ron Paul's transition plan which we will call henceforth the American Democracy Renewal plan. OK we'll call it the American Democratic Republic Constitution Renewal Plan.

I welcome other suggestions as we need to get this Plan B in together before all the prefabricated destruction takes place.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Bad Deal and a Hoped for Better One

When it seems to me most urgent that we have a renewal of the New Deal, the president has agreed to 2.5 trillion dollars in cuts over the next 10 years. The good news is defense is on the table. The bad news is domestic discretionary spending is on the table to the tune of half of those cuts. Considering the fact that military spending far outweighs domestic discretionary spending, this is a regressive deal.

A super committee is responsible for writing the details of this deal and that raises some serious constitutional questions. Whether any new revenue will ever be raised to contribute to this reduction remains to be seen but given that 50% of the super committee will be beholden to the tea party, we can all but be assured that progressive tax adjustments are out of the picture.

Given this bad deal, let us imagine a coalition of progressives and libertarians offering an alternative. First, match the maximum size of these cuts and then double it. That's 5 trillion dollars. Lets take 4 trillion of that from projected defense and security spending and 1 trillion from domestic spending. Next, apply half of that (2.5 trillion again) exclusively to debt reduction. Take the other 2.5 trillion and reallocate that toward domestic spending. Use half of that (1.25 trillion)to shore up Medicare and Medicaid and distribute the other 1.25 trillion dollars to the states according to population. Allow the states to do with the money exactly as they please.

This would mean that the federal government would be reduced in spending power by 3.75 trillion over the 10 year period and that states in desperate need of cash could pay teachers, police, etc. or simply put it in a rainy day fund if they thought their spending levels were sufficient or even give it back to their residents in the form of tax breaks.

Such a deal would satisfy libertarians in that the overall size of the federal government would be significantly reduced. With the federal government spending less, it borrows less and frees up capital for private enterprise. Additionally, this deal would go a long way toward satisfying the libertarian belief that constitutionally states (rather than the federal government) are allowed to make decisions according to their respective constitutions concerning government spending on education, transportation, etc.

It would further be an opportunity for libertarians in their respective states to prove that the states can do a much better job with domestic priorities. And for the more lustful of the laissez faire, here is their opportunity to have more influence in reigning in all levels of government spending and returning money to tax payers.

This may not sound like a fair deal to progressives so far, but we might  want to consider that shoring up Medicare and Medicaid might be an opportunity to expand these programs, moving us closer to a real universal public option, if not a single payer system.

Additionally, each state could take its share of the 1.25 trillion and use it to build high speed rail and other forms of public transportation and update the technology and infrastructure of its public schools while paying teachers in a manner worthy of their high calling.

Given that the more progressive states are also generally the more populated states, the prospect for proving our progressive ideas work best for the most people will be greatly enhanced. It may be better to provide funds in this manner than if we left this up to a minority controlled Senate and a reactionary House.

One final aspect of this agreement would be to replace our current income tax system with a much more steeply graduated progressive consumption tax http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2007/10/robert-frank-we.html . Any new revenues gained from this or any other reform in the tax code could be used exclusively for paying down the national debt or according to the above formula as congress and the president see fit.

This satisfies libertarians by removing income and savings from being taxed and shifts taxation in a voluntary direction based on how much one spends. It potentially could shift more money away from the government and toward the private sector by the former paying down its debt faster.

For progressives, if a progressive consumption tax were passed, it would be much more progressive than our current system and rectify the general perception that Democrats are aiming to exclude everybody each time one of its functionaries mentions targeted tax relief.

For both libertarians and progressives such a deal would be significantly better than the one in the works. For realistic libertarians and progressives, this would mean that they both have to put aside their penchants for political purity and be willing to vote and to act in unconventional ways in the upcoming election.