Friday, February 24, 2012


According to David Brooks column today the American and European social support 
structure are more or less equally funded. I do not have the numbers directly at my finger
tips—and apparently gauging from the lack of them in his column he didn’t either.
( Or he did, but ignored them because they disproved his thesis)  The absurdity of which
  is to propose that “the U.S. does not have a significantly smaller welfare state than the 
European nations.” (First of all, David,  congratulations on that “welfare state” buzz word 

Some European governments “offer health care directly”, some just pay for it directly and some have a not-for-profit system  with highly regulated structure .  All of them pay a lot less for a lot better care/outcomes.  He  infers is that our health insurance   tax  structure is welfare.  If so it is primarily corporate welfare—for the insurance companies and the employers.  Much better healthcare is available without these direct subsidies to the corporations.  How do we know—because the rest of the developed world has done it!  So subtract those corporate tax breaks from your “welfare” total.

The same is true for the other areas he mentions—childcare,  subsidies to industry.  The point is rather than his  indirect, unfocused tax breaks, mature societies make mature decisions about where to invest and then invest—not “untax” individuals or corporations.

Brooks adds in the money the  government doesn’t collect and calls it spending?  Really!? What world does he live in?  If we collect it and then use it then it is spending.   If we don’t collect it, his  absurdist $10 billion dollar example notwithstanding, then we are not directing its use for the society. 

That is the theory you all want us to buy . The  middle of his column does seem to acknowledge that this is just a sham for redirecting money upward.   But, surprise, somehow he gives it all another mobius twist and ends up calling for LOWER tax rates, without, of course all those bothersome regulations.

Finally, Reagans tax cuts did not produce any benefits – except, again, for those that didn’t need it.  In fact he raised  taxes several times  primarily on the lower and middle classes to make up for the hole his cuts caused in the economy.  His raising of the FICA was  and is the largest tax raise ever foisted on the middle class.  And now they want that money, too.  So much for the right being concerned about true tax reform.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Francis Fukuyama  argues in the current issue of Foreign Affairs  The Future of History   that"stagnating wages and growing inequality will soon threaten the stability of con­temporary liberal democracies and dethrone democratic ideology as it is now understood. What is needed is a new populist ideology that offers a realistic path to healthy middle-class societies and robust democracies." Almost o.k., as far as it goes, but, actually his main argument is that progressivism has not come up with coherent critique and policy to address the socio-economic and political realities of the time.

There is not so much a dearth of progressive ideas and ideology—but a corporate control 
of policy and minimization of distribution of those ideas.  The little known People's Budget 
of Congress’ Progressive Caucus is an excellent illustration.  It addresses many 
of the concerns raised in this article, yet few have heard of it.  Few, also, know that 
that same Progressive Caucus is the largest such entity in Congress.

In specific, Mr Fukuyama is in error regarding  his statement that  accuses the left of 
“a lack of credibility. (That) Over the past two generations, the mainstream left has 
followed a social democratic program that centers on the state provision of a variety of 
services, such as pensions, health care, and education.”   In fact where the social 
democratic left has been successful it has been in  these very areas.  Especially 
healthcare, where most of the developed world has some form of universal, equitable 
health care-- Always not for profit and often single payer.

Time and space do not allow for  a more  complete response. However, I would posit  
related and relevant points to ponder.  Corporate control of the narrative and  policy 
has curtailed progressive ability to mature the dialog.   That same corporate frame’s  
predominance   has only permitted  the “academic left … postmodernism, multiculturalism, 
feminism, critical theory, and a host of other fragmented intellectual trends that are 
more cultural than economic in focus” to be visible.  This has simultaneously served the right 
as a sop to their consciousness but one they can dismiss for its ephemeralness.   Far 
beyond incoherent scribblings, this progressive economic, social, psychological and 
political philosophy “it's all around if we could but perceive.”   It is in the 
aforementioned People’s Budget, in the writings and critiques of Thom Hartmann, Naomi 
Klein, Jared Bernstein,  Rachel Maddow,  Robert Reich , Paul Krugman and oh so many more. 
 And,  yes, Occupy is one of our distilleries.