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Forum Post: If Political Reform were one prong of our strategy -- what should we ask for?

Posted 2 years ago on Feb. 28, 2012, 4:47 p.m. EST by francismjenkins (3713)
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I'm hoping some offshoot or existing activist organization puts together a pledge for political candidates to sign (although, I don't expect something like this to become part of any OWS platform, and I'm not sure that would be wise, I still think it's a good idea, and one we can at least loosely stand behind, provided it has synergy with our values). So then, what should it say? First let me say, I actually think two pledges would be a prudent idea, mainly because there's some things that enjoy very broad support (among both liberals and conservatives), while other things are only likely to attract liberal support.

1) the "Abramoff proposals" to reduce/eliminate the influence of lobbyists.

2) passage of a law to replace the overturned provision in McCain Feingold, tailored to accomplish the same goals (like regulating donations to super-pacs and similar organizations), while taking into account the Constitutional defects found by the Court in Citizens United.

3) support for a Constitutional amendment if the legislative approach fails.

4) restore the provision in Glass Steagall repealed by Gram Leach (specifically, the provision which prohibited investment banks from owning commercial banks, and vice versa).

These four points enjoy broad support among many conservatives and liberals (at least among the electorate). The following ideas will likely only find support among liberal oriented candidates:

1) loan program designed to fund the purchase of closed down factories by workers. 5.5 million manufacturing workers have lost their jobs since 2000. Over 40,000 factories closed down during that same time period. Imagine if these closed factories were turned into employee owned/managed firms? This is not an experimental idea, employee owned companies have been successful in this country for a long time. The program could provide "direct loans" (like our student loan program) from government to workers (no bank intermediaries).

2) implementation of a value added tax. Bangladesh (a WTO member) has a 15% VAT, which exempts "cottage industries" (generally speaking, small to mid sized firms, including manufacturers). The VAT schemes of most of our trading partners exempt exports from the tax. And Canada's VAT (framed as a national sales tax) is progressive. Point is, there's a variety of ways to structure a VAT that would be permissible under WTO rules (and we need a VAT to level the playing field for our manufacturers).

3) fiscal stimulus. We have over 70,000 bridges that need to be repaired or replaced, many of our major airports are falling apart, we need to modernize our electrical grid, many of our elementary and high schools are falling apart, many of our state universities and community colleges are still using 50 year old chairs, and haven't been expanded in decades (to spite rapid population growth), etc.

4) alternative energy. Thorium reactors, electric cars, natural gas (for large trucks and buses), wind power, and alcohol fuels are extremely promising, and the science is good enough to develop a national energy strategy around. Our goal should be a sufficient level of energy independence within 10 years (when I say "sufficient" .... I'm assuming that we don't need to worry about importing energy resources from places like Canada).

We can afford to borrow, notwithstanding the mania concerning our deficit. Right now 10 year treasury notes pay a 1.9% interest rate, which is lower than the rate of inflation. In other words, people are willing to "pay us to lend us money." An additional $1 trillion in debt would only cost us $17 billion per year to service. The costs to service our debt will pale in comparison to the tax revenue generated through such a dramatic increase in economic activity. We should stop comparing our country to Greece, based on a single data point.

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8 Comments


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[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 2 years ago

The pledge idea is nice and worth a try, but we must remember that most people who get married also make a pledge, and at least half of them break it.

1) Abramoff Proposals are summarized athttp://www.npr.org/news/specials/abramoff/lobbyingreformchart.html

2) & 3) I'm more in favor of expanding controls on government than on limiting any of the powers remaining to the citizens, but my favor is good for only one vote.

4) the value of Glass-Steagall has been proven - twice

Next: 1) what U.S. worker salaries would be required to make worker-owned factories in the U.S. profitable?

2) instead of a VAT, how about a 1% tax on each and every transfer of money from one bank account to another? Congressman Chaka Fattah proposed such a tax early in his tenure (see http://fattah.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=52&sectiontree=4) but after being much watered down it seems to have disappeared from his list of priorities.

3) yes, let's fix our bridges and other infrastructure, sure beats blowing up other peoples' bridges.

4) also, good investments.

It is tempting to borrow at at below inflation rates, but we really cannot afford to pay any higher rates as we are borrowing to pay the interest as it is, along with other unfunded extravagances. Of course our borrowing is all short-term while our debt appears to remain permanent. We must refinance frequently and are always at risk for rate increases. How do we escape from this?

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 2 years ago

We can balance our budget, primarily through economic growth (we've done it before), but also through cuts (e.g. close any unneeded overseas military bases, and there's plenty we could close with no risk to global stability, reduce homeland security, or eliminate it completely, making the agencies under its umbrella independent again, eliminate federal aid to states for police and prisons, we need less of both, not more, repeal prohibitions on things like marijuana and release prisoners incarcerated for victimless crimes, stop using military contractors for what used to be military functions, etc.).

Also, a value added tax would increase revenue (although, ideally we'd relieve middle income/working class taxpayers of some tax burden), we could also eliminate things like tax breaks to oil companies (and stop rewarding them for polluting our planet).

So eliminating our deficit is very doable. We were able to fund the New Deal and WWII, and pay down the debt we incurred within the span of a few decades.

[-] 1 points by zymergy (236) 2 years ago

Yes to all of your suggestions that would reduce wasteful spending. I wonder though that if we permit tax relief to one segment of society because we believe that they are overburdened by the tax, are we not opening ourselves to petitions from other segments of society for similar favors? Or to ask the question a little differently, can we without hypocrisy go after the tax loopholes of the wealthy when we are at the same time proponents of unequal taxation?

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 2 years ago

This is of course the subject of philosophical debate, but in my personal opinion, progressive taxation is justifiable. There's some truth to the idea that people benefit from our system in proportion to their wealth. Yes, individual achievement is a factor in many cases, but the question is, do the wealthy disproportionately benefit from our social structure, political system, infrastructure, and so on?

I think we can answer that question with a resounding "yes" (by simple caveat of the fact that they do much better, relative to the population at large). Obviously this can become a matter of "degree" (and it can become an obscure question, influenced by a number of subjective factors and perceptions, which may not always be accurate).

While this "fuzziness" may not be satisfying to philosophical purists, the real world rarely is. Progressive taxation has never been a serious impediment to liberty, although taxation can reach levels where it becomes confiscatory, I'm certainly not suggesting taxation at those levels. We tax those who do extremely well at higher rates, mainly because (from a utilitarian perspective) it works better.

Also, the wealthy do benefit from a social safety that keeps the population content. If poverty became more and more widespread, we had public health epidemics, crime grew out of control, etc., we would likely see much more social disruption, even potentially a complete break down of our society (which would hurt the wealthy more than everyone else, because they have more to lose).

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

Let's see.

  1. Cut all ties with foreign currency (IMF, Federal Reserve, World Bank, etc). Implement money instead of legal tender.

  2. Abolish the commerce clause from the Constitution or formally recognize that the Constitution is a trust created between the states of the union, and is not a limitation or set of regulations designed for the private citizens of this country, but instead for the government of this country.

  3. End foreign occupations and government subsidies (including welfare programs funded by taxation)

[-] 0 points by BlackSun (275) from Agua León, BC 2 years ago

Eliminate the republican party and allow only the democrat party to govern?

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 2 years ago

How about eliminate "both" parties, and political parties in general. Term limits would also be a good idea (although it would require a Constitutional amendment).