Monday, February 14, 2011

Bring Back McKinley!

The rain returned last night. It is supposed to continue for the next ten days or so. That's okay. We need it.

So I took the dogs out for a sloppy walk today, thinking about a book I just finished on William McKinley. The early progressive era from 1896 to 1916 is something I wouldn't mind returning to. I wrote the following on a local web-site in response for a return to a "cut taxes" approach to the economy.

I appreciate Brad trotting out an economic model for us. A model which has been attempted over the last thirty years, with success, depending upon which segment of the economic ladder you inhabit. Corporations doing well; the decline of the middle class; the creation of an underclass that gets bigger every year. More economic insecurity for the common worker. An unequal economic system more unequal than Egypt.

Growth is always the answer(both on the Left and the Right). Yet, as Ed Abbey was famous for saying: "Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell". So giving more money to corporations is the answer? The corporation, as currently chartered (and considered a person by the Supreme Court), has only one responsibility: the fiduciary responsibility to the share holder, in essence, to seek out profit. Without other checks on the Corporation, they are free to "invest" their money elsewhere. And they have. That is why China is booming and you can't find hardly any American products anymore at Walmart.

Every era of politics has their own problems. Looking back to Ronald Reagan (the old military Keynesian) with fondness and devotion doesn't address the problems of our time. In fact, RR has created much of the problems of our time.I wish we would look back further. To adopt attitudes that worked once upon a time. I'm talking about the era from 1896 to 1916 when Progressives ruled. I think we need their skepticism of corporations and a new found commitment to economic equality with an emphasis on the environment. Bring back McKinley! Teddy Roosevelt! Bring back the reform mindedness of those early Progressives!

So what would such a new Green Progressive agenda look like for out time?

1. The establishment of responsibilities of the Corporation to go beyond just fiduciary responsibilities to share holders. No more "off shore" tax havens. Limits on CEO pay to more modest levels. An actual application to re-establish the Corporation every few years with a justification to what the Corporation has done for the public good.

2. Healthcare for all. Allow workers the ability to take risks with economic enterprises without losing security for their dependents.

3. Increase taxes on the wealthy. It worked from 1945 to 1975; it can work again. How many yachts does one person need?

4. Decrease the work week to 32 hours a week. The fact is we have way too many people attempting to get too few jobs. Americans need more free time. More time with families. Workers are exhausted.

5. A crash investment in transportation and renewables.

6. Cut the military budget in half. Do we really need over 900 bases in 135 countries?

7. New Urban planning. Move away from the car dependent suburb and let some of that space return to more useful purpose. Increase population density. Reconfigure land use to encourage space for plants and wildlife. Let kids have woods to frolic in once again. They need that.

8. Bring back the tariff. Promote bio-regionalism. Let's build our cell phones here--and let the Chinese build cell phones for their own economy. Share information. Limit the use of low wage workers.

The truth is we need not go back to a laizze faire economy that just supports ever expansive growth without doing the environment and humanity any good. That's been the model for way too long. I suggest we create a different economy that is more sustainable and just.


lph said...

Here Here Allan!

And yet after 30 years of supply side economics (other than the eight Clinton years when he raised taxes, and more people worked, and more people made more money, and he balanced the budget) people still believe that supply side economics works.

Take care!

Ian Woofenden said...

Don't diss laissez faire -- we ain't seen that in your lifetime... We have corporate/government incest now, and it's very controlled, not laissez faire at all.

I'm down with your #7. Other than that, your list seems like one group trying to control another. So YOU want to be in the corporate/government seat instead of them. Is that 'cause you think you are or would do better?

How about if we let people decide which corporations they like by what they buy? Ooops -- we DO that now, and people get the corporations they deserve... ;-)

Self responsibility is a big part of the answer in my opinion. If you want more health care, renewable energy, open space, etc., buy it. You'll feel better about the results than you will be getting control of the guys with guns to get what you want...

Allan Stellar said...


I hope you are out in the streets of Madison, agitating for your right for collective bargaining!


Always good to hear from you. We remain on the same side but using different maps to get there. I agree that we should do what we can individually. However, I don't see collective, democratic action as being force, unless you mean the power of a forceful argument.

Collective action need not be done by the jackboot of the State.

Social animals can do social action for the good of the environment and our species. I see humans as social animals. We do better in groups. When we were more connected with nature, it was the tribe that worked for the good of all. That is how we survived. So group action is in our genetic core. We are social animals. That is how we will solve problems: through collective action, in my view.