Wednesday, July 4, 2012
My wishes for America's 236th birthday
- by New Deal democrat
Whatever its other problems, the America of my youth was exuberantly optimistic. We had it better than any generation of humanity before us ever and we knew it, we had the world by the cojones and we knew it, and the future beckoned with wonders so long as we didn't blow it up in nuclear Armageddon.
Now I see a despondent and almost fatalistic "99%" on the one side, and a bitter, surly, and xenophobic rump on the other. There is no optimism in the reactionary radicalism that has ascended to power, it is all social Darwinism in a nasty and brutish war of all against all. There is really no more pretense that continuation down the ideological path we have trod these last 30 years will improve the lot of most people; rather, there is only the brute assertion that the masses are moochers who deserve their fate.
But I can dream, and here are the birthday wishes I would like to see come true for America on its 236th anniversary:
1. Infrastructure spending to replace our crumbling roads, bridges, water and sewer systems.
2. A new WPA to labor at all the government tasks that have been cut, until such time as unemployment drops to 6%.
3. The reinstatement of Glass-Steagall to separate investment banking from FDIC insured banking, and the breaking up of any remaining financial institutions which are "too big to fail."
4. The reinstatement of state usury laws. If for example a Delaware based company wants to offer credit to someone in Nebraska, they should have to abide by Nebraska's usury limits. Five years ago I used to get pushback on the theory of individual responsibility. That didn't exactly work out in the housing bubble, did it? Were only the spendthrifts laid off in the recession? Too much individual debt in the aggregate destroys the innocent and the spendthrift alike.
5. The conviction and imprisonment of the financial wrongdoers, no matter how high and mighty.
6. Repeal of the Bankruptcy "Reform" Act's ridiculous privileging of student loans.
7. Limitation of the Senate filibuster. If the old men want to filibuster, then they should actually have to stay up day and night to do so. Kibuki filibusters should be abolished, and other filibustering too except perhaps for a small number per session or perhaps limited to Supreme Court nominees with their lifetime appointments.
8. The reversal of Citizens United and its corporate corruption of the political process,
9. Replacement of part of the income tax with a revenue neutral Value Added Tax or similar, which would prevent the capture of all the profits gleaned from lower labor costs in the developing world by the uppermost corporate management and large shareholders, and instead give the US Treasury the means to ameliorate the costs of labor arbitrage to the benefit of average workers.
10. A law prohibiting states from offering tax incentives and abatements to out-of-state firms to relocate businesses. This is almost identical to one of the vices in the Articles of Confederation that led to the calling of a Constitutional Convention (European sovereigns were playing the 13 states off against one another for commercial treaties). Similarly, a phasing out of tax incentives that can be offered to sports franchises, in order to end the blackmailing of cities. Both of these are needed to stop the race to the bottom.
11. The prohibition of gerrymandering, whereby officeholders choose their constituents. Either an independent commission must be entrusted with the task, or else state and federal electoral districts must conform as closely as possible to pre-existing county and municipal boundaries.
12. A countercyclical balanced budget amendment, that would mandate surpluses in good times and deficit spending in recessions, enforced against the Congress by either the Courts or better yet, the States.
I'm sure there are a host of other festering excesses that I have missed. In the meantime, here is an American Tune for our time: