Congress Failing to Address Threats to Democracy While the Nation is Frighteningly Silent: What Must We Do?

Today, we follow up on two days of posts focused on local, state, and national inaction in the face of a looming climate catastrophe and a frontal attack on our democracy from the right. We examine what New Mexicans possibly could and should do to ignite a fire. We also offer more thoughts on Less is More, the book club tomorrow and then end the post with George Carlin’s hilarious skit on “stuff,” ever so germane to Less is More.

It isn’t exactly news that GOP-controlled state legislatures are passing hundreds of bills to limit voter access, with the clear intent of making it more difficult for communities of color to vote. Another feature of the bills are to make it easier for state legislatures to overturn an election. Sill other features expand gerrymandering, limit voter registration processes and allow other anti-democratic policies.

The For the People Act would strengthen our ethics and conflict-of-interest laws, stop unaccountable secret and special interest money from corrupting our politics, end partisan gerrymandering and protect voting rights and election security, largely reversing much of the damage done by these anti-democratic voting bills passed in GOP-controlled states.

But Saturday, Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he would not vote for the bill and Sen. Krysten Sinema has stated skepticism. Neither support ending the filibuster, a key step needed to pass much of anything on Biden’s infrastructure, jobs, and social investment legislative agenda. We’ve seen from the GOP what bipartisan collaboration leads to: refusal to include tax increases on the rich and corporations and insisting on cutting investments in half or more. The cartoon below depicts the situation well.

Over the weekend an e-conversation emerged among a group of activists affiliated with progressive organizations, all lamenting the lack of national concern or civil actions protesting the situation. There was fear among many in the thread that absent any significant sustained action and, strong pressure brought to bear on Manchen and Sinema, two consequences will crash down upon us in November 2022 and 2024:

  • In 2022, with Biden unable to pass meaningful legislation at a time when voters are looking for bold action, the Dems will not be able to maintain control of one or both chambers, with voters blaming them for failure to act; and
  • In 2024, with two more years of stagnant legislative action, the GOP, perhaps led by Trump, will steal the national election.

Those on the e-thread want to begin planning for some form of protest or advocate pressure campaign to address the situation. Retake’s focus is on state and local politics, but shares the concern of others on the e-thread. indeed we published a posts on Saturday and Sunday lamenting the lack of national and international activism as relates to the climate crisis. I expect that in the coming days a strategy will emerge from this group and an announcement of some kind of action or zoom meeting to design a strategy. Retake will report on this and support this action, as it emerges, so stay tuned.

Frankly, dramatic action is needed right now on many areas from climate, to BLM, to voting rights, to wealth inequality to sustainable farm and food production practices. Our Tuesday evening book club is structured to facilitate conversation about how we might address many of these issues by educating and advocating in support of policies–informed by a de-growth framework. See below.

Retake Less is More Book Club, Tuesday, June 8 at 6pm.

Jason Hickel has posed that the only way we can avoid climate catastrophe is to shift to a no-growth economy. His book Less is More outlines why this is so and the kinds of strategies and policies that could be initiated to achieve a no-growth economy. As Hickel described it, the no-growth world would emphasize development of local economies and food systems, vastly reduced time spent working, increased time spent on community and family care, and where income and wealth is distributed far more equitably.

But how do we get there? In an article by Thomas Neuberger, he placed the dilemma this way: “Even if an enlightened politician were president (we don’t have one), the surest way to get unelected in a hurry is to ask for sacrifice from the modern American people. As Yves Smith pointed out at Naked Capitalism, “The only hope we have of non-catastrophic outcomes is radical conservation, and just about no one in a position of influence is willing to say that. After all, we live in a society where some regard mask-wearing as an unbearable hardship.”

So, tomorrow we will use that challenge as the starting point to our Less is More Book Club. You do not have to have read the book to participate, but it might be good to have listened to one or more of the four Retake Conversations focused on the book, particularly the final segment where I discussed the various strategies Jason Hickel lays out as our path to a sustainable economy, a path he (and I) feel is the only viable path to avoid climate collapse.

While most of his strategies are economically viable, the political path is far more challenging, a topic we will discuss tomorrow.  Click here to register.

We will discuss:

  • Hickel’s assertion is that it is impossible for us to address climate while continuing to pursue economic growth. Do you buy it?
  • Hickel has outlined a number of strategies to fund de-growth. Which of the strategies did you find most compelling?
  • Some of the strategies that Hickel proposes could be implemented at a national or international level, which of these did you find most compelling?
  • Some of the strategies could even be implemented at the state or local level, which of those questions do you feel could be advanced in NM and how?
  • A large number of the strategies for achieving de-growth would need to be implemented through international cooperation, like forgiving the debt of Global South nations, establishing equitable international corporate tax rates or keeping it in the ground. There is no discussion of the kind of political strategy that could achieve that kind of cooperation. While it is encouraging to hear that Janet Yeltsen convinced the G-7 to establish a 15% corporate tax rate with a plan of expanding that minimum tax rate to the G-20, which covers 80% of the world economy. That is a start, but a modest one but, as reported by Heather Cox Richardson this morning, “In 1980, the average global corporate tax rate was about 40%. By 2020, it was about 23%. By 2017, multinational firms had about $700 billion stashed in tax havens.” So there is some precedent for far higher corporate tax rates, just one manifestation of the kind of international cooperation needed to address the climate catastrophe. Do you have thoughts on the kind of political movement that would be needed to implement even bolder international strategies?
  • If you find a de-growth economy impossible to achieve, what alternatives do we have to avoid depletion of our resources?

If you’ve missed the four part series of radio shows focusing on Less is More you can catch up by clicking here to get to our Retake Conversations page where you will find all four of the discussions near the top of the page.

George Carlin’s “Stuff,” a Hilarious Take on Rampant Consumerism

If you’ve never heard Carlin’s monolog on “stuff” and consumerism, it is ever so funning and germane to the concept of “de-growth.” Check it out.

In solidarity, gratitude and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Personal & Collective Action

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3 replies

  1. Thanks for the provocative assertions on zero growth. The series of questions about the up-coming book session may appropriately unpack the main proposals in the book but omits what strikes me as the crucial issue: redistribution of unfairly distributed wealth. A family of six in a mobile home could do a lot better in my house. While I certainly wouldn’t mind off-loading some of my “stuff” a la Carlin, some of the “stuff” holds significance for me and my family (4th grade math homework?). Some may even have “cultural” importance. Taxation and debt, etc. have distant meanings; redistribution, such as followed the revolutions in France or Mexico or Zimbabwe, has far reaching unintended consequences. Yet, when we advocate zero growth, we must also advocate that redistribution.

  2. The tyrannical, vicious and exploitative capitalistic culture is like a day-school where we are like children constantly being taught that all our ‘wants’ can be satisfied immediately. It teaches us and our children that wants are no different from needs. We are told in a thousand different ways that we can and should have everything we need/want. And much more.
    Everyone, including very intelligent and learned people, young and old, talk about (our) democracy. The one we always had and the one we may loose.
    But nobody cares to fully define a living democracy, a fully functioning democracy with all its necessary processes. Its necessary components.
    Voting is not the only condition to have a democratic country, or village.
    There are more.
    The Greek cities did not know democracy. The Roman Republic did not have democracy because it was an expanding Empire in its childhood. the United States has been, since its very founding, an expanding empire whose gatekeepers, and we know who they have been and are, are now fighting to stop its decline. Their tool is getting old and rusty. They want to hold on to it because it has become their ultimate source of ultimate power.
    Omnipotence has always been the ultimate goal of ruling classes.
    Since Sargon the Great, the ruling classes have perfected the many ways by which they need to first colonize their own people in order to use them for the ‘growth’ of their most important tool to gain power and richness. Empire.
    Yes, an empire is just one more tool, like a corporation and a private or a ‘national’ army, the ruling class has always used to acquire and maintain power for generations.

    Children of empire are children of deception, of blind obedience to power. Children of many forms of abuse. Those Americans enthralled by Trump are a clear example of a culture of abuse.
    When abuse is generational and an intrinsic part of a culture (could be the culture of a family unit) and thus becomes normalized, it is almost impossible to imagine a different world.

    I believe we need to Rethink our Republic so maybe we can make it a fully functioning democratic republic. But…

    First we need to learn the many ways in which this Republic and their peoples have been used and abused for the benefit of the rulers of the Republic. for the benefit of their political courtiers, and for the maintenance and growth of the Empire well hidden in the Republic.

    Once we accept our varied and real history then the way forward will be clearer.
    Because we will be better, much better, grounded on reality.

  3. Here is one solution. But as long as we do little to nothing to change our behavior it will not become a powerful reality.

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