Blog post on What do we do with Inequality and what does that mean to You?This is the first of an ongoing series, with some dialogue and comment, we hope. It is are that we will take an extended passage from a journal and launch a discussion series based on this. But I encountered a rare passage from an author in MONTHLY REVIEW (not always the most vivid of progressive publications) that I found so compelling that I want the first “cut” to speak for itself.
Imagine at a very practical level, what it is like to “grow up with advantages” in modern America—and without them. See how this passage captures that, and drawing implications should follow. Our source is from Michael Yates in the March 12, 2012 issue of MR, pp. 9-10 in an Article entitled “The Great Inequality,” … he quotes at length from his own book, Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012) pp.58-59… (Yates is co-editor of Monthly Review and an economist, formerly of the U. of Pennsylvania): In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where I lived for many years, there is an extraordinarily wealthy family, the Hillman’s, with a net worth of several billion dollars.
One of their homes, along once fashionable Fifth Avenue, is a gorgeous mansion on a magnificent piece of property. About three miles east of this residence is the Homewood section of the city, whose mean streets have been made famous by the writer John Edgar Wideman. On North Lang Street there is a row of three connected apartments. One of the end apartments has been abandoned to the elements to the rodents and drug users. This is gang territory, and if you are African-American, you do not go there wearing the wrong colors. Poverty, deep and grinding, in rampant on this street and in this neighborhood, which has one of the nation’s highest infant mortality rates. Consider two children, one born in the Hillman house and another in the North Lang Street apartment. In the former there are two rich and influential parents. In the latter there is a single mother working nights with three small children.
Let us ask some basic questions. Which mother will have the best health care, with regular visits to the doctor, medicine if needed and a healthy diet? Which child is more likely to have a normal birth weight? Which child is likely to get adequate health care and have good healthcare in early childhood? If the poor child does not have these things, who will return to this child the brain cells lost as a consequence? Which child is more likely to suffer the ill effects of lead poisoning? Which child is more likely to have an older sibling, just 12 years old, be responsible for him when the mother is working at night? Who will be fed cookies for supper and be entertained by an old television set? If the two children get ill in the middle of the night, which one will be more likely to make it to the emergency room in time? Which child will start school speaking standard English, wearing new clothes, and having someone at home to make sure the homework gets done? Which child will travel, and which will barely make it out of the neighborhood?
As the two children grow up, what sort of people will they meet? Which will be more likely to meet persons who could be useful to them when seeking admission to college or looking for a job or trying to find funding for a business venture? Which will be more likely to be hit by a stray bullet fired in a war over drug turf? Which will go to the better school? Which will have access to books, magazines, newspapers, and computers in the home? Which one will wear worn-out clothes?
Which will be embarrassed because his clothes smell? Which will be more likely to have caring teachers who work in well equipped and safe schools? Which will be afraid to tell the teacher that he does not have crayons and colored paper at home? Which will learn the grammar and the syntax of the rich? Which child will join a gang? Abuse drugs? Commit a crime? Be harassed by the police because he is black? When these two children face the labor market, which will be more productive?
To ask these questions is to answer them. And when we considered that the poor child in the United States is better off than two thirds of the world’s population, we must consider that most of the world’s people live in a condition of deprivation so extreme that they must be considered to have almost no opportunities at all. They are almost as condemned as a person on death row in a Texas prison.
Strong words? Yes. Mr. Yates would not back down from a single one of them, nor would we. Please let us know what You think.
On Their Blindness
When I consider how my days are spent
In this marbled city full of plots
And my people’s legislation rots
As Republicans withhold consent.
To all my noble programs evident
To any voter with discerning eye
And reporter knowing all’s awry
Guns, wages, energy’s predicament
Cry for the modest changes that I seek,
More schools and medicine for ev’ry child
That this great nation might enlightened grow
And healthy like a mighty garden sleek
With water from my policies unique
If only Congress could that wisdom know.
One of the themes of this book is going to be: areas where what might be called Obama Clinton Democrats can pick some ripe fruit from places in the American polity and electorate thus far not fully accomplished. We offer first a draft list of both obvious and less obvious supporters whose help should be easy to get, at least at the margins, and I whose self interest backing the progressive agenda should be clear:
- Corporations/Business– already a source of some support for Democrats, this largest and most amorphous interest group has traditionally been the core of Republican financial and voting support; the GOP has been seen as the party of business, yet Business is so diverse, ranging from Silicon Valley internet giants to huge retailers like Wal-Mart to the main street pizza parlor owner to Big Oil, etc., that the Democrats should always be looking for a bigger piece of the more progressive “winnable” elements of these groups…
This would probably include corporations with highly educated and more socially conscious executives thinking past the bottom line and (exclusively) shareholder concerns, to Image—like Novartis’s free pharmaceuticals for selected unable-pay-patients, useful for advertising, but also generated, very likely, by some genuine human concerns… it would be useful to scan literature on mixed motives of businesses, which stress the do-good impulses that move many of us and probe into a less mechanistic more nuanced view of corporate behavior
- The non voter– Comb the literature for studies on why people do not vote (multiple reasons: apathy, busy-ness, disillusionment with the system, lack of interest in politics, feeling their single vote will not make a difference)—these voters may well yield more progressive votes that reactionary… Obama did well with bringing the votes of his established base, but he also reached for some adults, perhaps especially in 2008, who did not normally go to the polls… these voters are, again, “ripe fruit,” and changing their behavior has in all likelihood been studied and with some conclusions
- Older voters– these will become more numerous and will increasingly be made up of baby boomers and eventually post baby boom people.. Note that the last birth year for Boomers is 1964, and that in 2014, people born after that year will be entering their 50s, and in 2024 their 60’s etc. Obama’s performance among, especially, white above-55 voters could have been stronger, given the 1960’s-70’s influences on such voters… Right-wing scare tactics on threats to Medicare from Obama-care may have worked (check lit.) but in many ways, it is in the interest of these voters to consider the advantages of progressivism: attention to the needs of the elders in the electorate: medical care, continuing education, public services (say libraries) for the large group of ‘living on a fixed, lowered budget’ Americans
- Not quite parallel, but a central almost haunting question is why voters (sounds like Thomas Frank here) who are middle class, seeing their standard of living stagnate or decline or flatline, so much more numerous than the wealthiest 1-percenters or even 5 percenters, do not come out in droves for Obama-Clinton progressives, should be answered—maybe in this book, especially voters from more struggling heartland states such as Frank’s Kansas, Nebraska, south Dakota, states that are theoretically winnable, but whose gun use, church affiliation, and rural values make them reflexively republican in most instances: we need to find out why Tom Harkin, George McGovern and Frank Church won elections in such states and the potential for this type re-emerging (probably by building a support base in Wichita, Lincoln, Boise, university towns, and bringing home acceptable amounts of “legitimate pork to their constituents…We now turn to a consideration of how an alliance of progressives with some more of Business/Corporate America might work:
CAN A CORPORATE-PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE HAPPEN?
The dominant wisdom about corporate capitalism is that its lifeblood is ultimately the return on investment to the shareholders. As corporations multiplied and increased in complexity in the 20th C., it is a commonplace that they have moved from manufacturing and transportation to finance to finance, retailing and information. It is true that manufacturing, especially in the area of transpiration in the USA have remained strong to some extent in the aircraft and automotive industries.
Both major parties of received corporate largesse and money from individuals enriched by corporate leadership and investment. But the Republican party clearly stands as the corporate, private sector favoring party and has done so for decades. As Noam Chomsky noted—not far off from the Left and center, the Democrats have depended on “everybody else”, while certainly getting substantial, though less, corporate support. Chomsky, in the same interview, November, 1988, noted that in fact the United States could be said to have only one party, The Business Party, with two wings, Republican and Democrat. Overall the Republicans are much purer in there support of and benefits from corporations, and the Democrats must compensate for lesser corporate support, but appealing to “all of the other groups.” Democrats do get reliably more support from most other groups, but Chomsky’s point is that the resources of the business sector are vaster than those of almost all of the others combined. These statements, of course, refer to gross aggregates and are hard to measure quantitatively….
Historically, whether one sees the party system as 2 sides of a corporate coin, or as 2 evolving discreet “brands”, there is broad agreement that about every 30-40 years, there is a national election that shifts the political geology dramatically than is normally the case. What are called critical or realigning elections occurred, moving back in time, in 1932, 1896, 1860, 1828 and 1800. A snapshot description of each of these elections would go something like this, referring only to the winner and his party: 1932, F. Roosevelt (Dem.) Great Depression; 1896, W. McKinley, Urban, industrial, Gold Standard; 1860, A. Lincoln (Rep.), Union and end of any expansion of Southern slavery; 1828,
Andrew Jackson (Dem.) , anti-elite, anti-Federal government, pro-Southern and Western interests; 1800, T. Jefferson, (Dem.-Republican) anti-Federalist agenda. The p[icture blurs after 1932 as independent voters became more numerous, and the parties became more competitive in electing presidents.
Some would cite either 1968, or more often, 1980, with Nixon and Reagan coming into power with increasingly conservative coalitions as roughly “critical,” and perhaps Obama’s two victories after almost 30 years of more Republican strength in the White House as a “harbionger election. But the old models of long fairly dtable periods of one party dominance do not hold up well after 1950. If one measures presidential party years in power since Truman in 1948 and move to the present 2013, we see 25 years of Democratic presidents and 29 years of Republicans, a remarkable balance when you consider A. that Democrats were in power for 24 of the 32 years between Jackson and Lincoln, 1829-1861 and the Republicans occupied the White House for 58 of the 72 years between 1861 and 1933 (Lincoln to F. Roosevelt) and B. If you add the remaining 3 years of Obama’s 2nd term the party Balance in the White House becomes almost exactly even from 1949 to 2017.
The Attack on Collective Bargaining
Why the attack on collective bargaining? After all, collective bargaining is a rather rational—civilized—idea: employers and employees seeking agreement on terms and conditions of employment, while listening to each other’s needs and concerns.
Moreover, there is no legal responsibility to come to an agreement. If the bargaining does not work out, each side is free to pursue its interests outside the collective bargaining framework.
So what’s the issue—especially with state governments that have been in the forefront of attacks on collective bargaining—passing legislation eliminating the “right” of their public employee representatives to collectively bargain with their governmental employer on specific issues, or on all issues?
The anti-collective bargaining argument is that collective bargaining has led to public employees forcing governments (and, therefore, citizens) to give them much too much—creating a privileged public employee class, leaving the state government and its citizens with insufficient funds for themselves.
And enabling this theft of state government and citizen assets are the public employee unions—sitting on the other side of the collective bargaining table—using their electoral power—votes and financial contributions to candidates—coercing the government and the citizens it represents to impoverish themselves for the sake of public employees’ luxurious living.
There are a few immediate observations the above argument gives rise to:
- There’s an assumption that public employees are getting more than they deserve, economically putting the government and other citizens in economic peril. This, however, is a debatable assumption.
- If there is a problem as described, it’s not collective bargaining but the power of the unions. This power is manifested at the collective bargaining table, but it is independent of it—and would exist and be used to support the demands of the employees through other channels, if collective bargaining was eliminated.
- And, with or without collective bargaining, these other channels remain and are also used by employers and employees to trade ideas and press their demands.
- Indeed, this brings us to the crux of the matter: Collective bargaining is a positive institution—perhaps the best available venue for employers and employees to negotiate with one another —all the alternatives being less efficacious.
- Collective bargaining is positive because it is a direct, face-to-face discussion. Each side can directly communicate to the other side its needs, wants, arguments, and its view of its own power.
- All the other methods that are used to communicate—and which remain—whether or not there is collective bargaining—are less efficient means of communication. They more easily lead to misunderstandings, missed opportunities and unfounded/untested conclusions.
- Legislative Lobbying: For example, with or without collective bargaining, both the employers (the state government) and employees seek the support of state legislatures for their positions on employee-employer issues–sending messages, supports and sanctions to the legislators. This dynamic will always exist in a free society—but it is not as efficient in negotiating issues as experienced employer and employee representatives in discussion together at the table.
- ii. Media: And they send messages through the media—giving interviews, writing letters, sending press releases. All these are okay, but, as with communication with legislators, do not amount to the detailed exchanges needed for mutual understanding and future planning.
- iii. Electoral Campaigns: Of course there are also campaign contributions and messages to candidates—again, of value, but even more removed from specifics and likely to be more rhetorical and less prone to working out mutual understandings.
- iv. Unilateral Actions: And there are job actions on the part of employees and unilateral decisions on the part of employers—easily giving rise to resentment, misunderstanding and hardening of positions—especially since, as unilateral, the other side is less likely to feel it had the proper input.
The point is that doing away with collective bargaining does nothing to control the power of unions—for good or ill. It simply takes away an excellent institution within which unions and their employers can communicate, leaving less efficient methods to take on more responsibility than they are capable of handling well.
Good Management: And there is a larger concern about communication. Communication between employers and employees is a crucial factor in good management. How can one manage an organization well without communicating with the leadership of one’s employees?
Governors (and bosses in the private sector) who decry collective bargaining are saying that they’d prefer to be bad managers—assuming they know their employees concerns, but with no way to sit down with the employees to seek deeper understandings and further exploration.
Why would they do this? One the one hand, it’s because they think they know enough about their employees’ situations without investigation—a questionable assumption in our world of large, complex, fast-changing, diverse organizations.
Scapegoating: But, on the other hand, it seems clear from news reports, that they are not thinking about employee needs or communication—or about good management at all. They oppose collective bargaining for reasons of political posturing. Faced with fiscal challenges, and citizens always concerned about taxes, they have chosen to make public employee union power the scapegoat, loudly attacking unions, and arguing that collective bargaining is the evil Trojan horse that has led to union triumphs over the government’s and the citizens’ fiscal wellbeing.
The fact that eliminating collective bargaining will not reduce union power, that union power is not the reason for the states’ and the citizens’ fiscal challenges, that the only guaranteed result of the elimination of collective bargaining will be worse management—these conclusions argue for a different approach which, unfortunately, does not fit well with politicians who are antiunion under any fiscal circumstances and who want to eliminate crucial governmental services—whether badly or well managed.
Income Inequality: Yes, there is a final issue. The current attacks have been on the “too generous” salaries and benefits of public employees attained through collective bargaining. . Most citizens do not have such benefits; why should public employees?
The conclusion: measurably reduce public employee salaries and benefits, or at least prevent them from increasing.
But there is another solution. If public employee salaries and benefits are so far ahead of those of the rest of the citizenry (a questionable conclusion), is the answer to cut back on the public employee salaries and benefits or to extend these better salaries and benefits to the rest of the citizens?
After all, one of the analyses of why income inequality has so much increased in the U.S.—leaving private employees behind—is that union power and collective bargaining have been taken away from most private sector employees. If private sector employees had unions to fight for them—and represent them in collective bargaining—they might catch up to public employees in salaries and benefits—reducing income inequality in our society overall.
Just one more thing: Let’s say a law is passed precluding collective bargaining. Yet, subsequently, an issue comes up among the employees. And then, the union leader knocks on the governor’s door —or happens to see him eating in a restaurant—or walking in the park—or maybe even playing at the golf course. You mean the union leader can’t mention it? They can’t discuss it? Isn’t that a violation of human relations—a violation of the basic concern of for one’s fellow human being?
Blogger’s Note- As readers may know, Professor Lerman is a political scientist with 40 years of post-Princeton grad school teaching and a specialist in conflict resolution (which includes collective bargaining). He is also the co-author in progress of our book-to-be:
OBAMA, PROGRESSIVE RESURGENCE, AND U.S. POLITICS, 1990-2040
NOTE: This blog does not specialize in current events, but once in a while an issue surfaces that reflects larger anti-progressive trends. One of these is the large number of closures of already underfunded public schools, especially in poor areas. America seems to be able to afford a vast consumer economy, even during recessions, a military that equals the defense outlays of the next 30 countries’ defense budgets, but cannot seem to find the money to make excellent public education available to all. What follows is some reporting around (mostly) inner city school closings. The people in power (Rahm Emmanuel, Arte Duncan, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, et.al.) tend to send their children, and/or have friends who send children to private schools. And for good reason. The public schools feature large classrooms, often shoddily equipped, with underpaid overworked teachers and a system focused on testing and scores by which to judge teachers and fund schools.
This will be part of an ongoing discussion because it is so central to the issue of fairness and class mobility in the United States. Opposing or clarifying views are welcome, but the problem, below the radar for many Americans, is presented here as a matter of class discrimination. Read on:
Chicago School Closings: District Plans To Shutter 54 Schools
Posted: 03/21/2013 7:27 pm EDT | Updated: 03/22/2013 1:06 pm EDT
Parents protest outside the home of Chicago’s Board of Education President David Vitale’s house Thursday, March 21, 2013, in Chicago. Teachers say the city of Chicago has begun informing teachers, principals and local officials about which public schools it intends to close under a contentious plan that opponents say will disproportionately affect minority students in the nation’s third largest school district. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Citing budget concerns and falling enrollment, Chicago Public Schools officials announced Thursday they plan to close 54 schools next year and shut down 61 school buildings — the largest single wave of school closures in U.S. history.
For months, looming closures seemed inevitable. After a teachers union strike last fall concluded with an expensive contract, observers were left without a doubt that the only way the cash-strapped district could afford it was to shut down schools and fire the teachers who worked there.
Since the September strike, Chicago hired a new CEO for its schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, a veteran of closures in cities like Detroit. The district held hearings with parents about the fates of their children. Rumors flew about how many and which schools would be axed, with some predicting as many as 129 could close.
On Thursday, news of the final closure list began to trickle out. The day had come, a week before the district’s April 1 deadline. Byrd-Bennett announced on local television that CPS would close 54 elementary schools, name six for “turnarounds” and send 11 schools to share buildings with others.
As the news dribbled in through aldermen and school officials themselves earlier Thursday, many angry Chicagoans were searching for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, who waged his mayoral campaign on promises of education reform. DNAInfo Chicago reported Emanuel was on vacation with his family.
Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis blasted Emanuel’s absence.
“Our mayor, who is away on a ski trip, drops this information a week before spring break,” Lewis said during a Thursday afternoon press conference outside Mahalia Jackson Elementary School in the city’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. “What’s their spring break going to look like?”
Lewis went on to call the mayor’s actions “cowardly” and likened them to bullying. “He should be ashamed of himself,” she said, drawing a chorus of “amens” and whoops from students in the crowd.
In a phone interview, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey told The Huffington Post to expect a tumultuous spring from the teachers union. “We’re going to do any and all nonviolent forms of protest we have at our disposal including legislative and legal,” to protest the school closures, he said. “Also direct actions like sit-ins to try to stop this disastrous policy.”
While districts across the country have faced waves of closures, those in Chicago hit doubly close to home for the Obama administration; in addition to the Emanuel connection, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan formerly served as CEO of the district.
“When, where, why and how to close schools are local questions that are never easy. No educator ever wakes up in the morning wanting to close a school,” Duncan said in a Thursday statement provided to HuffPost. “On the local level, real considerations about budgets, resources, and declining enrollment have to be balanced against real impacts on the community. Closing a school is a difficult but sometimes necessary decision, and districts and local leaders should strive for a transparent process that listens to community input and offers better educational options for affected families.”
Chicago district officials have argued that dwindling population in some predominantly black neighborhoods has created an “underutilization crisis” where schools are operating way below their capacity. Keeping these buildings open, they said, is waste of resources. CPS says the closures could save $500,000 to $800,000 per school.
To soften the blow for students at closing schools, the district said it is adding 13 new special science programs, five International Baccalaureate programs, air conditioning and fine arts classes in 19 of the schools where these students will be sent.
CPS parents reacted with outrage at the news, even those whose children’s schools were saved from the chopping block.
Jennie Biggs, who has three children at Mark Sheridan Math & Science Academy in Bridgeport, called the district’s decision “unbelievable.”
“School is their second home,” said Biggs, 40. “It’s where they feel most comfortable. To lose that sense of belonging and that sense of community must be a traumatic event for a child.”
Biggs attended three of the volatile community engagement meetings held by the district earlier this year, where she said parents worried students assigned to new schools will be forced to cross into unfamiliar territory.
“Parent after parent after parent talked about safety concerns,” Biggs said. “For me, that’s my number one concern: How do we keep the kids safe?”
To simulate the effects a school change would have, one parent walked from Libby Elementary to Sherman Elementary in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, Biggs said, passing seven abandoned buildings along the way. The trek took 27 minutes.
“That’s what will be the daily experience for kids who are displaced,” said Biggs. She added the district will likely see a spike in truancy numbers as parents struggle to get their kids to a new school.
Related on HuffPost:
The Color of School Closures
Mass school closings have become a hallmark of today’s dominant education policy agenda. But rather than helping students, these closures disrupt whole communities. And as U.S. Department of Education data suggests, the most recent rounds of mass closings in Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia disproportionately hurt Black and low-income students.
· your stories and data about closings in your district.
· about alternatives that support students rather than close school doors on them.
There is no evidence to suggest that school closures work. Despite what policymakers say to justify these mass closures, have shown that the majority of student who are affected do not get placed in high performing schools. And though closures are often touted as a way for districts to save money in tough economic times, those savings often fail to materialize and can in reality in hidden costs.
Evidence-based policies that provide students, schools and communities with the opportunities and resources they need to succeed, including:
Here are just a few of the many groups organizing against school closures in the cities highlighted in the infographic. If your organization is doing anti-closures work, let us know and we’ll add it!
1. There is a strong if limited tradition of corporate community giving in American history: philanthropy, community service, etc.
2. Companies give about $15 billion a year of the $240 billion in charity giving in a 15 trillion dollar economy; this is not an impressive figure relatively speaking, but $15 billion in good works is a good start, and business would rightly argue that job creation and externalities (improving roads, power grids etc.) are Absolute contributions that should never be underestimated
3. Our book advances the idea that business, big or small, in the coming years must not be seen as they enemy, as an adversary; anti-capitalist rhetoric may have validity, does have, in some circumstances, but we want to focus on “best practices” and tap the reserves (huge) of business resources for community improvement—quality of life… there are a significant minority of companies already following a variation of what might be called the “Carnegie-Starbucks model” with 2 very different approaches to social responsibility
4. Here is a short list of what might be called condensed arguments for business continuing do exactly what it is right now, and that that is plenty:
Business bring jobs, paychecks, prosperity into US life
Business’s obligation is to provide goods and services
Business needs to make a profit to grow > more jobs
Business’s obligation #1 is to its shareholders
Business greatly helps people by generating dividends, etc.
Business already gives substantial grants & civic projects
Business-people are leaders in their communities
The more progressive businesses and executives (Gates and Buffett today, for ex. and Carnegie and Rockefeller in the Gilded Age”)
5. What we are proposing to accomplish, without pointing the finger at Business for the moment follows this sequence
Redistribution in the form of corporate and individual taxes is normally not well regarded today, it is not popular with the Republican party, it once was accepted as a fact of life (in what might be called the “Keynesian” period from the 1940s through 1970s)
Corporate giving is being done, but taking into account the large projected deficits because of entitlement programs, so-called costs associated with Affordable Health Care legislation etc., decisions will have to be made about raising revenue while trimming expenses; the Republican party recently has signed on, Overall, to a No New Taxes policy, or very limited concessions for the highest income individuals
There really are a limited number of solutions here: taxes can simply be raised to 1960’s levels (not likely), government spending can be made to go away by capping Social Security and Medicare, shutting down national parks, ending Saturday postal service, and such small economies (also problematic), the defense budget can be slashed X% (20,25, 30?)—variants of all of these have been proposed and, eventually, some of each may be needed; the previous mildly progressive Democrat to Obama, Clinton, managed to turn decades of deficits into surpluses; the present era (2013) is different: we now have an expensive prescription drug plan, baby boomers retiring and entering the Soc. Security and Medicare systems, and are still recovering with 7% unemployment after the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s
There are signs that increased employment and production, which is now occurring, and some combination of the measures listed above will make a big dent in future deficits, but we propose one other avenue that will improve quality of life Without traditional taxation increases or along with modest increases
These are expanded corporate philanthropy, quickly there are two ways to do this, for corporations to, say, quadruple their voluntary charitable giving programs/budgets: 1. just do more of what’s being done now by a multiple of 4, 2. working with a designated government council or board to coordinate community projects (parks, schools, roads, clinics, libraries, etc.) at the local, state or federal level (probably in that order of preference),
Doing this would for starters, generate about $60 billion in added non-tax “revenue” per year, an indirect boost not exactly to deficit reduction but indirectly accomplishing the same thing; future columns in this blog will get more specific about how this would be done and how it can be a breakthrough bridge between business and communities and potentially between the political parties and the private/public sector…. no one says that this will be easy, we are simply saying that it is Doable and Makes Sense
- Obama and the Democrats Won Because Romney was a Weak Opponent
Romney was a relatively strong opponent whose credentials, solid business background and Republican governor of a liberal state not to be taken lightly. He was both telegenic and gaffe prone. The latter did not appear to be a problem in his: A. beating Obama soundly in the first debate, B. shadowing within 2-3 points of Obama in the polls and sometimes equaling or besting him, C. All of this in spite of being the quintessential one percenter, D. All of this and he still won 47+ % of the American electorate and the white male and female vote, in spite of caving to many very conservative positions
- Obama’s Victory was about his likeability, not his policies
Obama was indeed seen as more likeable and/or to have the average American’s interest more at heart, but he was also credited with Trying, if not always succeeding, to re-energize the American economy, maintain a newly respectable and thoughtful foreign policy, expand health coverage and protect programs that existed,….more (a bit for various groups: “illegals”, environmentalists, women—that minority that is the majority, veterans, not to be cynical but the latter a nice way to compensate for no war medals)
- The Right Wing of the Republican Party was discredited and is Moribund
Indeed the far right was a net drag on the party but events since the election show that while the party leadership is distancing itself from Tea Party excesses and hard-shell reactionary politics, the core of the right-right remains in tact, unapologetic, perhaps more localized in the south and conservative plains and RockyMt. states
- The Republicans will move more to the Center and halt Democratic gains
This may happen at the top of the ticket in subsequent elections (the meaning of the curve of 2008-2012 is clear enough, but the Republicans have a delicate balancing act in smoothing the rough edges of the far right and yet maintaining their most active cadres; in 2016 and beyond they may not have as polarizing (read black, smart, “elitist”) figure as Obama to rally the troops against
- An increasingly progressive electorate and reform at the very top are “Enough.’
No they are not. The Democratic and progressive forces must groom a new generation of governors, representatives and senators (the latter are retiring 2-1 over republicans, and the most liberal—Harkin and Rockefeller—at that, and state legislatures where gerrymandering has been deadly for the Dems)
The New York Times lead editorial on May 31 quoted former Senator Bob Dole as saying the Republican Party should put a “Closed for Repairs’ sigh on its doors, and that Dole found the party one that he barely recognizes and, were he alive, Ronald Reagan would have the same difficulty.
The editorial also reported Sen. John McCain as saying the Tea Party was “absolutely out of line” and setting a bad precedent. This same Tea Party whose votes in 2008 and 2012 kept the Republican Party from being more severely embarrassed in the presidential election counts. In any case, Congressional paralysis, caused mostly, though not entirely, by far right House Republicans, many elected in 2010, are credited with ‘blocking effective action on the sequester of funds, action on economic growth and climate change, checks on gun purchases and a threat to compromise on immigration’. [slight paraphrase]
Much ink and many pixels have been spilled driving home point about gridlock in Congress, the abuse of the filibuster, and, earlier, Senator Mitch McConnell’s economic and unusually candid wish that above all else, the GOP must insure that Obama be a one term president. Of course this did not come to pass, and the Republicans have followed with the usual internal self-examination of a losing party. But to date, with the possible exception of immigration and the tax on the “1%” the House, and thus the Congress, and thus the law making and overseeing process has been held hostage by an intractable minority.
The question we open up here for discussion is not so much centered around what pragmatic Republicans would Need to do to move governance forward and to attract more voters at the national level. Solutions about a “bigger tent or umbrella,” facing demographic realities, extracting itself as “The Party of No,” have been well covered. What we are seeking and ask our readers to join the discussion about Why hard working, true believer ultra conservatives would think that any serious negotiation would be caving in and perhaps selling out their constituents.
They should remember that even if their re-election depends on hard line, disaffected conservative voters backing them, that they also represent districts where many voters have Disagreed with their positions and that on average barely 50% of voters will cast a Congressional ballot. So they may actually be representing supporters who may be, on the high side, 70% of 50% of district adults, or 35% of their adult constituency. Of course this could be said for less conservative Republicans and Democrats also. And it is arguable that if true believer ultra-Right congresspersons and Senators feel the progressive agenda is so wrong-headed, they may need to block it at every turn. The practical result of course is the kind of dispiriting stalled engine that is the legislative branch right now. Please give us your thoughts.
Frederick l. shiels