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The Democratic Party’s ‘Better Deal’

July 25, 2017

After decades of seemingly endless neo-liberal attacks on the American people, one of the two monopoly parties of Wall Street, Big Business, and the military-intelligence state has just awoken in horror to discover it’s not very popular with the people and may actually need to offer something a bit better. To this end and presumably after much study, it came out yesterday with a shiny new product it calls The Better Deal®.

It is, of course, grossly and unsurprisingly inadequate given the forces ruling the party and I therefore fear I’m wasting my time writing about it. I nevertheless think it may be worthwhile to use this opportunity to observe the gaping chasm between the solutions offered by the ‘progressive’ wing of the duopoly with what’s actually needed for a prosperous and peaceful world.

The Better Deal was announced by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in an article in yesterday’s New York Times and its underlying vision can be found in its second paragraph.

There used to be a basic bargain in this country that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you could own a home, afford a car, put your kids through college and take a modest vacation every year while putting enough away for a comfortable retirement. In the second half of the 20th century, millions of Americans achieved this solid middle-class lifestyle.

For starters, I find this Clintonian meme ‘Work hard and play by the rules’ highly objectionable and indicative of the whole problem. It’s a joyless, authoritarian command appropriate perhaps for a parent correcting an errant child but not for a democracy of equals. Who, I must ask, makes the rules? How hard must we work? And how are the rewards to be distributed? Schumer’s answer to the last question is Spartan indeed, looking not at existing 21st century technologies nor forward to the future, but backward to a half century ago. If we work hard and play by the rules, he says, we can aspire exactly to this: a (mortgaged) home, a (financed) car, education for our kids, a modest vacation, and a comfortable retirement. In a world of virtually unlimited productive capacity, this is the hard limit of the Democratic Party’s imagination.

This isn’t an adequate vision. We possess today the technology and capacity to live in near utopian conditions. Why should we accept anything less for ourselves or our children? The problem we have isn’t with our productive potential, it’s with a global structure of power that will forever keep it from being realized. Indeed, that is its design.

That this is true is indicated by the use of the word ‘deal’, a concept completely out of place in a working democracy. A ‘deal’ is a negotiation between two parties. If the people rule, then who exactly should it feel in need of ‘dealing’ with? Of course the people don’t rule and Schumer uses various words to characterize who does: “the wealthiest special interests”, “shareholders”, “the wealthy and powerful”, “vulture capitalists”, and “investors”. The problem isn’t about these people as individuals, though, it’s the structure.

We don’t need a ‘better deal’, what we need quite simply is a prosperous peaceful world that reflects our productive potential. Schumer speaks as if we were children, “we stand for three simple things. First, we’re going to increase people’s pay. Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re going to provide workers with the tools they need for the 21st-century economy.” This isn’t only inadequate, it’s idiotic; the demands and opportunities of our time require a much more thoughtful analysis.

I believe we can reduce things ultimately to the interplay between competition and cooperation and for us to live in peace and prosperity, we must move a very long way toward the latter. Let me briefly expand on how this might apply to the common themes of trade, globalization, and national security. There are, of course, many other key areas which need to be addressed.

While trade treaties and globalization are major issues in our political discourse, there’s a much deeper point that’s widely missed. It’s this: we are irreversibly linked on a global scale because we are all human and inhabit the same planet. There is no hope or valid moral reason to fight this basic fact. We severely limit ourselves when we insist on thinking in terms of nations and thereby fail to see we live in a single interrelated socioeconomy. The wide body of international law and trade treaties recognizes this fact but, while it incorporates the idea the system is global, sadly enforces at the same time a rat race of international worker competition which serves only the interests of a small class of globally diversified owners and elites.

The Better Deal promises to “provide workers with the tools they need for the 21st century economy” but this is exactly the wrong approach: the problem isn’t tools; it’s the global structure, one largely created by American postwar power and the Democratic Party itself. We don’t need trade treaties per se; we need prosperity treaties. And what I believe this involves first and foremost is a global monetary treaty which promotes global cooperation among people and workers.

The monetary system as it exists today is anchored in the dollar and euro. While neither are ultimately backed by anything and can be created at will, the structure treats them as gold-like hard currencies. Populations everywhere are thereby severely limited in their ability to spend at sufficient levels to overcome poverty and create the prosperity that’s otherwise possible. Under the existing paradigm, nations can’t obtain money via taxes on the rich as they’ll just move to another country and thereby create economic chaos. Nations are likewise limited in how much money their governments can create via deficits. Ideology has it that deficits are dangerous debt which will eventually bankrupt the country in the same way it does lowly households. By limiting in this way the amounts governments can tax or spend, the structure assures people will always be poorer than they need be. The reigning paradigm is thereby that of austerity.

We can see this dynamic playing out in the United States whereby infrastructure is collapsing, healthcare isn’t affordable, retirement is insecure, and so on; all of which is ideologically justified by the lack of money. It’s a problem of structure the solution to which is to first recognize it as such and then to create a new global architecture.

The national security state is likewise a gigantic problem to global peace and prosperity. It’s a monumental waste of resources that promotes a warlike culture leading to geopolitical power rivalries, international tensions, and endless war. It’s a child’s game that must end. The only rational solution is to institute a verifiable regime of peace and massively cut military spending.

I conclude that The Better Deal is a worthless blueprint for our future. Contra Schumer, our problems won’t be solved by a bit more pay, less expenses, and a few more tools to compete in the current structure; we need a new structure which fosters peace and prosperity for all.

From → Dynamics, Suppression

One Comment
  1. David Chester permalink

    The suggestion that our democratic society is so unsatisfactory in the way it is going that we need a new set of rules is frightening. This attitude was what led to the communistic society where “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” did not work, and due to our greed (a natural phenomena) is unlikely to work again.

    If our society has to be planned, let us at least lean from this lesson and think more deeply about the way greed can be used to be of benefit to more than the individual. Adam Smith showed this with his theory of “the invisible hand”. By this theory, the division of labor and our need to enjoy the results of what we do, are directed to a more complete sharing of all the fruits of our toil. This philosophy should be extended not restricted by monopolization, be it of (national) socialist or of capitalistic kinds.

    The only development in creative thought that shows any signs of conversion to a better society to date is the proposal by Henry George in his seminal 1879 book “Progress and Poverty”, which is to better share the advantage that all the natural resources provide us. In particular the huge variation in land values of both urban and rural kinds can be better shared by a system of revenue collection based on its value (which George rather strangely called “The Single Tax”), so that monopolistic speculation in rising land values (after tax-payers investment in infrastructures) will be of benefit to all, not only the greedy land owners and banks. Since natural resources are included here, we should include the way air pollution is spoiling them. Pollution should also be subject to this kind of tax control, and then perhaps we will re-set our carbon dioxide global heating problem in the opposite direction.

    Before being so proud as to claim the need for world peace, let us set in order our own house.

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