A Path Forward from Current National Economic Policy to Something Like Justice

A wake-up call to Dem Party leadership, plus, the clearest ‘next step’ to social & economic justice I’ve read. And a powerful poem from Hakim Bellamy on what displacement feels like to impacted people.

Update on Monday’s Roundhouse Hearing. Last night, I received an email from Linda Fertal who attended the Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee hearing and updated me on what transpired. It is a very good thing she did as while the Santa Fe New Mexican reported on the testimony of NM criminal justice administrators and their Annual Report, they had not one word of coverage about the 300+ people who jammed room 307 or of the testimony from dozens of individuals from the impacted community. One would think that the New Mexican would have found space for the testimony of those impacted by the system, given that the bureaucrats report on the status of the New Mexico criminal justice system described how:

  • Our prisons are bursting at the seams; and
  • Prisoners eligible for parole spend their entire parole in prison due to a combination of a lack of affordable housing options available to parolees and the system’s inability to process that parole–at a cost of millions to New Mexicans and at a cost of freedom for hundreds who have served their time.

It seems likely that their report is setting the scene for a request for more money and more prisons in January. It would have been worthwhile had the New Mexican devoted space to the testimony of the impacted community and those advocates with ideas of how to resolve this crisis that does not involve private prisons, more cells, more incarcerated people, and more wasted millions.

A Justice Agenda We Should Embrace

Readers of this blog know that Roxanne and I believe that sustainable racial, economic, social, and environmental justice can only be achieved by departing from colonialism and capitalism and embracing a more socialistic socio-economic system. Together, colonialism and capitalism represent a zero sum game where profit trumps all and where it matters not a whit what labor, material, human rights or environmental resources must be exploited to achieve that profit.

Thursday’s blog will present a proposal from Resilience that would substantially reform corporate culture, but today we present excerpts from another Resilience report written by Tim Koechlin and originally published by Common Dreams, that delineates a national economic policy that would free us from the imposed austerity budgets that have been foisted on us for decades.

Prior blog posts have outlined how the capitalist model is simply unsustainable long-term as it is predicated upon growth in a world with limited resources and upon a populace with unlimited willingness to be chattel to that system. Other posts have described how the Midwest, farmers and rural America are feeling abandoned by America’s political leadership.

But instead of tapping in to what could become a tidal wave of grassroots activism, Democratic Party leadership is bent upon dismissing all evidence of progressive messaging resonating with voters, with Rep. Pelosi just two days ago dismissing Ocasio-Cortez’s sweeping win over Democratic House leader Joe Crowley. While the Democratic Party seems incapable of outlining a clear alternative to Trump and provide a reason to become excited about the midterm elections and the looming 2020 Presidential election, an article by outlines our current economic condition, describes the pitiful lack of imagination and courage of our political leadership, and then provides a simple, but specific platform that, if embraced and promoted via a credible Democratic leader, could animate the electorate. My question: Why are so few Democrats not embracing a platform such as what Koechlin has developed?

First, an important disclaimer. Throughout the remainder of this post, the focus is on the US and the degree to which our current economic system is strangling us. It goes without saying that as bad as we have it here at home, the poor living in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South and Central America are far more vulnerable and oppressed by an international autocracy. But if we can’t even generate a national agenda that advances social, racial, economic, and environmental justice here at home, we are certainly not ready to consider the huge sacrifices involved in addressing international poverty and oppression. While the international implications of capitalism certainly need to be addressed, for today we focus on the US.  Read on and please share.

From Koechlin:  “To get there [a more equitable society], we need to recognize that a kinder, more equitable, more democratic, and sustainable economy is possible. And we need to reject the false, dismissive claim that we ‘can’t afford’ a better economy. We can imagine and build an economy that centers the needs and aspirations of the 99%, and we can afford it.”  Let’s start from that premise.

Koechlin begins by outlining the economic reality that is defining the day-to-day existence of most Americans:  “Among the world’s rich countries, the US is the most unequal, and it’s been getting worse over time.

  • Since 1973, labor productivity – the market value of what the typical US worker produces in an hour – has increased by 74%, while real wages (what a worker gets paid for an hour of work) have barely budged.
  • 13% of US residents (including 25% of African Americans and 16% of children) live in poverty.
  • The wealth of the median African American household is about one-tenth the wealth of the median white household.

Many millions are a lay-off, a health crisis or a divorce away from bankruptcy and/or poverty. Tens of millions are without adequate health care. Our schools are under-funded, we work too hard, and the organization of economic life – the ways in which we produce, distribute and consume stuff – has put the planet and the fate of our grandchildren at risk.

Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer, and US corporate profits continue to break records.  In 1965 the typical CEO earned about 20 times as much as the average worker.  In 2016, the ratio was 270.”  These are numbers; the day-to-day living reality for far too many Americans is that we are one mishap away from a slippery economic slope. And we live with that reality every single day.

More from Koechlin: “Those who benefit most from the status quo spend a lot of money to persuade the rest of us that this – an economy that serves the top 1% – is good for us and, in fact, the best we can do. Our limited sense of what’s possible is no accident.”

I have been reading a good deal lately about how the civic debate has become so narrow that the national imagination for alternatives has been suffocated. Recall when Bernie Sanders launched his campaign and suddenly there was discussion of universal health care, tuition free college, and a path to citizenship. Why hasn’t Democratic Party leadership projected a powerful alternative to Trumpism, his tax cuts, his departure from the Paris accords, and his shameless immigration policies? Where is a vision we can believe it?

More from Koechlin:  “The US economy should provide us with economic security (i.e. higher wages, universal health care, retirement security, affordable housing, and much more). But more than this, the US economy should provide, support and facilitate all of the things that make our lives rich, including things that are not obviously “economic” – community, opportunities to express ourselves creatively, ample time away from work, creative work, gratifying public spaces, rich conversations, abundant opportunities to tend to our relationships, and much more…. Prioritizing human needs will make our lives better.  It may not enhance corporate profits.  That’s a good trade-off.” Imagine that, a statement that suggests that rather than having to work 2-3 jobs to pay the rent, Americans might deserve actual time off to be with family, to relax, to take a class.

From Koechlin: “We are encouraged to see the economy as a force of nature, a set of “market forces” that – like gravity or the weather – are essentially beyond our control and, for all but a few experts, beyond our understanding.  We can only hope that, by its ruthless, inevitable logic (tweaked, perhaps, by a few wise experts at the Fed or the IMF) “the economy” might provide us with jobs and growth and ‘opportunities.’

When wages plummet or jobs disappear, we’re likely to hear that ‘it’s a weak economy’ or, perhaps, that globalization or ‘technology’ have led to ‘structural changes in the economy’ with which we, alas, must learn to deal with. We are told, often, that we might have to make some sacrifices – lower wages, less vacation, fewer services, fewer protections, skimpier benefits, higher interest rates, etc. – for ‘the good of the economy.’ The economy is the master, we are its servant.” If you watch the evening news, CNN, MSNBC, Fox or the networks, all of the talking heads parrot these terms as if they were sacred, as if our hands are utterly tied, our options non-existent. But as Resilience points out, they are not at all sacred. There are alternatives.

From Koechlin:  “But the economy is, in fact, a social, historical and political creation, and so its form, its rhythms and its priorities are not “natural” or inevitable. We can re-imagine our economy, and re-make it. Similarly, the presumption that the economy is the domain of business and finance means that Capital’s perspective dominates our discussions of the economy.”

From Koechlin: “The claim that ‘we can’t afford’ a sustainable and generous economy – an economy that provides economic security, reliable access to health care, good schools, abundant opportunities for (inter)personal growth and enrichment, and more– is a lie.  This is true: an economy that prioritizes the needs of the global 99% is likely to reduce corporate profits and the incomes of the 1%. It would limit opportunities for capitalists to squeeze additional profit out of workers, communities, and the planet.  So, perhaps, ‘they can’t afford it.’ The rest of us can.”

From Koechlin, here is a laundry list of reforms that could pay for our economic and social liberty:

  • “A wealth tax on the very rich and a repeal of the enormous Trump corporate tax cut would liberate hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
  • The US spends nearly as much on defense (about $700 billion in 2018) as the rest of the world combined. Brown University’s Watson Institute estimates that the “cost of US wars” since 9/11 is “$4.79 trillion and counting.”
  • The explicit cost of mass incarceration in the US is nearly $200 billion per year.
  • The US spent $3.3 trillion on health care in 2016; twice as must per capita as many rich countries (all of which provide universal coverage!).
  • Among the world’s rich countries, US tax rates are near the bottom of the list. Americans, on average, pay 26% of our income in taxes of all sorts. The OECD average is 34%. Sweden and Denmark have higher tax rates – over 40%. They also have generous unemployment benefits, universal health care, generous retirement benefits, and free college tuition (Danish students, in fact, are paid to attend university).
  • An increase in tax revenues in the US from 26% of GDP to 29% would yield about $330 billion annually.  An increase to 34% – the OECD average – would yield nearly $900 billion. And, finally,
  • The federal government can borrow money to invest in smart infrastructure – which would facilitate sustainable growth, and a better life for most of us.”

Collectively, this represents an achievable platform. It would not require the complete transformation of the Democratic Party, just a President with a fearless and very clear commitment to the 99% and a Congress with more people like Ocasio-Cortez in it. And with two plus years of grassroots organizing and education we could restore some moral balance to this country. Once our youngest generation got a taste for what might be possible, debunking capitalism and colonization could be on the horizon.  Click here for a truly excellent and highly readable Resilience report. And stay tuned, as Thursday Resilience offers a corporate reform strategy that could lead to a new kind of corporation, one where profit is not the one and only end.

‘Land. Lords.’ by Hakim Bellamy

Inspired by Creative Santa Fe’s ‘Housing the Future Disruptive Futures Dialogue’ (Santa Fe, NM), This poem captures the humanistic/emotional content of displacement and gentrification. No data, no policies, just the feel of what displacement is like for impacted communities.

 

When you live off the land,
displacementfeels like an asthma attack.New air feels foreign
as fingerswrapped ’round our lungs,our land.Our history

keeps forclosing on us,

keeps re-evicting itself.

Keeps out housing those

who live like us.

Keeps slave quartering folk

who look like us.

Keeps Indian Schooling our children.

Keeps forcibly removing us

from our homelands,

only to turn around and have the nerve to say

“home ownership is the path to wealth…

and equity

is the American Dream.”

Like…

Mama ain’t the original mobile home,

9 months of temporary housing

a room in every womb.

Like…

that ain’t growth too.

Like development

is new.

Like…

there ain’t a full on fireplace

in every single one of our hearts

insufficient to weather winter

this many feet above minimum wage.

Like…

it’s mad cool to live in a neighborhood with street art

as long as the hood ain’t home

to street artists.

Like…

Surplus inventory isn’t an insult.

And market “share”

isn’t a bold faced lie.

Like…

property values

are the same thing as having values.

Like…

a second home

is more American

than a second chance.

Like…

we haven’t closed the door

on our humanity.

Like…

those same four walls

that shelter your body

are enough to protect your soul.

Like housing “security”

means the same thing to everyone.

Because one man’s piece of mind

is another man’s big ass fence,

while one man’s piece of property

is another man’s rent.
###

“If we tell incomplete stories about what’s at stake and what the problem is, we will have incomplete solutions.”-Charlene Carruthers
Thank you to Hakim for this powerful expression of the emotional content of the daily reality for far too many in America and abroad.In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

2 thoughts on “A Path Forward from Current National Economic Policy to Something Like Justice

  1. Sadly I see no way to post a picture here. A friend in Australia sent me a photo shopped image of Trump and Putin that says it ALL without words. I am told it is going viral internationally….it needs to be seen, but alas I could only post on facebook….

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