Time to Pursue a Progressive Agenda
It is time for the government of the 1%, by the 1% and for the 1% to be replaced by government of the people, by the people and for the people. It seems to me that the former has increasingly become the case in this country over the last four decades. Inequality in income and wealth has been increasing throughout this time, with the government often seeming to protect the interests of the wealthy and powerful above and beyond the needs of the rest of us.
Progressive efforts, such as the drive to provide affordable health care for all, have met with stiff resistance from politicians representing the interests of large corporations more than those of their own constituents. Progressive forces seem to be always on the defensive, trying to defend against conservative attempts to gradually erode the social safety net that has taken so long to build. Continuous fights over budgetary and tax issues have resulted in a Congressional stalemate of epic proportions for so long that many can’t even identify how to solve the most basic issues, let alone address other important matters that the procrastinators fight so hard to ignore. Utter confusion and unwillingness to make key decisions seem to be the main goals of many as they strive to make last-minute deals to kick the can down the road to a future deadline without really addressing any of their differences or solving the problems.
Enough is enough. The time has come to stop holding the American people hostage in a bid to further the economic inequalities that have plagued us at an ever-increasing pace since the Reagan Administration. Austerity measures proposed to cut deficits caused by unbudgeted wars and tax cuts aimed at primarily benefitting the very wealthy will weaken the social safety net protections for the poor and elderly while barely touching the wealthy at a time when the economic circumstances of the economy require more, not fewer, resources be used to help out those most in need.
Unemployed workers need jobs. If they had them, there would not be need for such large expenditures on food stamps, unemployment insurance and other programs to help people meet basic needs. For over a year now, Congress has steadfastly refused to pass any legislation which would create jobs. Does this mean there is no work that needs to be done? Absolutely not – natural disasters and a trip down just about any highway in America will demonstrate there are innumerable infrastructure deficiencies that need to be addressed that could create millions of jobs that would provide great benefits for society, pay for the workers, and increased tax revenues instead of unemployment expenditures and Food Stamps. While Romney, Ryan and others appear to believe otherwise, most people have no aversion to work. Private enterprise refuses to do this sort of thing on its own – not enough profit, I guess. That makes it appropriate for government to identify what needs to be done and raise the money necessary to complete it.
Social Security does not belong in this “Fiscal Cliff” discussion in the least. Cutting benefits there is just plain cruel to those most dependent on the benefits they paid for throughout their working lives and can no longer work to pay for. Raising the retirement age or using other formulae to decrease benefits to future recipients merely lowers their standard of living. Raising the cap for the Social Security payroll tax and/or increasing the forms of income which are taxed for it to include such things as capital gains would increase revenues to cover increased costs of benefits for many years to come. So would full employment and better wages for workers. None of these issues is currently being addressed in any of these farcical discussions of how to reduce the deficit and debt.
Health care cost increases need to be addressed in a manner that actually results in their being better contained, not just shifted from being paid through government programs to being placed upon the responsibility of people who already have trouble meeting all their other financial obligations. Some issues that were even dismissed during the Health Care Reform debate a few years ago include why prescription drugs cost so much more in this country than they do abroad. How much could costs be reduced by lowering the administrative costs of running separate insurance schemes in each state rather than a national plan, perhaps modeled after Medicare, which seems to be run more efficiently? The answer is, these costs could be contained here much more than they are now. Other countries do it.
My point is, endless debate resulting in few if any long-term solutions seems to meet the needs of the rich and powerful, as well as the large corporations, much better than it does the rest of us, including small businesses. We need to jump-start the discussion of alternatives that will better suit the current and future needs of the citizens of the country as a whole, not primarily the takers at the top. I, for one, do not mind paying an extra dime for a pizza or for a burger in a restaurant if it means the workers providing it to me are paid a decent wage and have affordable health care. I do object, however, to a society that permits way too many of its members to live in poverty or homeless and without basic necessities so that others can own yachts and elevators for their cars.
It is time for our elected officials to get a grip on what the true priorities of this country need to reflect, and to act accordingly. If they are unable or unwilling to do so, they need to be replaced by more progressive and forward-thinking people capable of bringing forth a more just and equitable society of the future, rather than dragging us back to the dark ages that existed for many in past generations.The debacle that was the 2010 midterm elections mean there is much work to be done to reverse some of the damage created by right wing legislators and governors in many states and Congress since then. Complacency will only make things worse. The time is now to start working to identify the right people to elect in 2014 and 2016 so that we are not continuing to face the often insane and/or debilitating effects of laws and policies that ill serve our needs in so many ways. We also need to be vigilant in fighting against all the obstacles the powers that be keep placing in our path to a more responsive and responsible government.