Not exactly breaking news, is it?
By "our side" I do not mean the Democratic side. We all know that they are not on our side in the sense that they are Republicans and we are Democrats. I don't have a problem with that per se. Our democracy would function quite well if the party in power cooperated with the loyal opposition for the common good. Alas! The GOP does not follow that idealistic script. What I mean in the title is that the GOP is not on the side of We the People.
Have you ever wondered why recessions always seem to happen when the Republicans are in power? (9 of the last 10) Just coincidence? Unlikely. I believe there are systematic reasons for this. Join me below the fold to explore this.
The days of bipartisanship -- if they ever existed -- are gone. At one time, leaders of both parties wanted prosperity and security for all Americans. They may have differed on the methods they advocated, but at least we could be assured that they were both on the same side -- that of We the People..
This is no longer the case. The GOP is now the party of the wealthy; this has never been more clear. They live and breathe and die to promote the well-being of the 1% to the exclusion of We the People. The economic interests of the 1% are served by extending, and even deepening the economic downturn. This is not, as many pundits suppose, solely an attempt to defeat Obama in the coming election. The fact is that Republicans want recession -- else why would they have authored so many?. Recession makes the rich even richer. Recession is actually a very good thing for the GOP and the 1%. That's what I mean when I say they are not the side of We the People.
Corporate profits and productivity are at a record high. Yet the low and middle income segments of America are hurting badly, while the 1% are thriving as never before.
What's going on here? Doesn't a rising tide lift all boats? No, it does not. The ever-increasing productivity of the economy only favors the people who own stock in America's corporations. Guess who owns the most?
The fact is that recession is the best friend of the rich. If you were a billionaire who was only interested in increasing your personal wealth, you should fervently hope for a deep recession. This seems counterintuitive, but think about it. When the poor and middle class lose jobs, they are obligated, in order to make ends meet, to accept whatever jobs they can find, even at inferior wages. Earning something is better than earning nothing. Lower overall wages for the poor and middle class translates to higher income for the very wealthy. The money that We the People lose because of lower wages does not simply vanish in a puff of smoke; it winds up in the hands of the wealthy.
Take as an example the proposal by President Obama to put unemployed workers to work by funding infrastructure upgrade. It is trivially obvious that this work is badly needed. It is also obvious that upgrading our infrastructure would be good for the workers doing the work. It is also obvious that fixing our infrastructure would be good for the economy in the medium and long term. So why would the 1% oppose such an idea? Whose side are they on? (Rhetorical question.)
It's really simple. Yes, our infrastructure needs work. Yes, we have a ready supply of labor to do that work. But, since the wealthy have basically all the money, they will be the ones who have to pay for that work. Even at the expense of letting our infrastructure decay, it is in the economic interest of the wealthy to delay fixing it. The longer we wait, the more desperate will be the American worker. Why pay them $25 an hour today when they will be more than willing to do the same work tomorrow for $20 an hour, or the day after that for $15 an hour?
Take another example, education. Teachers in public schools are an unnecessary drain on the fortunes of the wealthy. What good can come of educating the poor and middle class? After all, they exist only to provide labor for the very rich. This is why teachers in virtually every state are under economic attack. The tactics? Bust teacher's unions. Increase class sizes. Reduce their numbers. Reduce their salaries. Reduce their budgets. After all, public schools are not generally attended by children of the rich. If you believe that Republicans are in favor of quality public schools, then you haven't been paying attention.
Unemployment, and underemployment is very, very good for the wealthy. Full employment would mean that they would have to compete in the labor market by offering higher wages to obtain that labor. Full employment is very, very bad for the wealthy. It costs them money.
So when Republicans talk about job creation, they speak with forked tongue. Creating jobs -- especially jobs that pay well -- is the last thing in the world they want to do, because it means they will have to pay more to the American worker to accomplish what needs to be done.
As many have pointed out, their aim is to sabotage the economy in order to deny Obama reelection. This is true, but it's only part of their motive. If Republicans gain power, they will continue to resist job creation simply in order to plunder the poor and the middle class even more vigorously than they have in the past. At some point, they will grudgingly create jobs at the lowest end of the economic spectrum. Someday, we will be allowed to fix their crumbling infrastructure for near-starvation wages. And even then they will crow loudly at how many jobs they have "created".
Time for another rhetorical question: Which party traditionally seeks a higher minimum wage, and which resists a higher minimum wage? What should the answer to that tell you?
Excessive concentration of wealth is bad for the economy and bad for the country. What do I mean by excessive? When you have more money than you can possibly spend on creature comforts, you are excessively wealthy. Let's consider the aggregate net worth of the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson -- roughly $75 billion among just these three. If these three were to spend $50 million on each Senate race, $20 million on each house race, and $1 million on each of roughly 7400 state legislature races, they could elect enough stooges to rewrite the US Constitution using only 40% of their combined wealth. Preposterous? Reflect that a few decades ago the Citizens United decision would have seemed similarly preposterous. Even if this scenario seems far-fetched, should we risk selling the government of our nation to a few billionaires?
The Republicans are not on the side of We the People; they have formed an unholy alliance with the very wealthy. They and the wealthy actively oppose prosperity for We the People. If recession or war or ravaging the environment suits their financial interests, that is what we will get from them. If we allow it, they will seize permanent control of all three branches of government. Citizens United has potentially set this country on a path to runaway plutocracy.
What should be our goal? I believe we should use the tax system to guarantee that no person could accumulate a net worth greater than $100 million in 2012 dollars. (Pick your own number in the poll.) This would involve top marginal rates such as those we saw from 1945 to 1970. It would also involve reforming out tax system so that these high marginal rates are actually paid, and that they apply to all forms of income. We might even consider a net worth tax, which would involve amending the Constitution. Obviously, this cannot be accomplished in a few months or even years, but we should know what the ultimate objective is: Democracy rather than Plutocracy.
We should also drive up the minimum wage, and support the right of workers to bargain collectively. Money in the hands of the poor and middle class creates demand and drives the economy. Money in the hands of the 1% drives their stock portfolios.
The GOP and the wealthy have been waging class warfare against We the People for over 30 years now. It is time to fight back.