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Thursday, August 4, 2011

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.

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