Labor Day

submitted by Joe Detelj

Cancer is a metabolic process of undifferentiated cell division. Ultimately, growth of the tumor is limited by the death of the host organism. Growth of GDP as an index of undifferentiated economic growth is widely held to be a measure of social  health and well being. We are more fully served by the biological insight and are at a minimum, misguided by the creation of the orthodox economist whose self serving conclusions are the necessary product of  unreal assumptions.

But, faulty algorithms aside, growth, the gospel of entrenched public policy has collided with the real world of six billion humans; finite resources, in particular cheap and easily extracted fossil fuels; climate change; and the metastasized social inequality embedded in the DNA of capitalism. Clearly, we are at a profound point in our history. Species extinction, in particular our own, has  to be considered a  possibility. Issues of equity, justice, and a  sustainable mode of production  compel a need for a more democratic, decentralized, and biologically based economy.  This will not be easily accomplished. The dominant political climate is characterized by fear and denial, paradoxically, based on a recognition of the current state of affairs and a general inability to imagine a solution. There is nothing more urgent than the need to seriously begin a conversation relative to what fundamental changes need to be implemented and what will a more appropriate social order be like.

The choices being offered by the usual suspects are not exactly comforting. One wing of the Party is seeking an acceleration of deregulation and the continued privatization of all public goods. . The other wing is seeking to moderate the mechanisms of destruction that precipitated the crisis and is only willing to make changes on the margin, all the while the rants and raves of the lunatic fringe decry a drift toward socialism. While it must be admitted that risk and costs have indeed been socialized for finance capital and transnational corporations, too-big-to-fail, profits have clearly remained in private and limited pockets, and that is the root cause of the problem.

If there ever was a fable for our time it is Humpty Dumpty, for all the king’s men and women are unable to put Humpty together again limited as they are by imagination, vested self interest and the courage to redistribute even a modicum of the obscene concentration of wealth the is the dominant feature of our gilded age. A recent AP story in our local newspaper featured a Labor Day(which is May1 in most of the world, pardon the digression) article that presented a bleak future for American workers .It was, incidentally, the catalyst for this response. It presented the continued demise of the middle class, that is, those workers paid a wage above subsistence, and the establishment of a two tiered work force consisting of highly skilled more richly compensated workers supported by an army of low paid service workers. The options we are to accept seems to be computer science or Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, or Pizza Hut with no room for a skill set in between. This is the service economy that was promoted by the usual suspects as the envy of the world.

We are truly living a paper economy with any real substance being off-shored as fast as the masters of the universe on Wall Street can click their mouse. It is however, entirely within our power to initiate a more viable alternative. While it is unlikely that we have a complete blueprint for the  democratic and sustainable social order that we will need to create amid the ruins, there are concrete policies that can be implemented as transitional steps that will facilitate the process. Historically, the period from the end of the second World War until the early 1970’s  was received as a golden age of sorts. It clearly was the economic highlight for the vast majority of Americans. Admittedly, the period suffered serious imperfections, but it was for most a prosperous time. Workers wages and corporate profits were simultaneously rising. The Treasury enjoyed trade and domestic surpluses. Union membership was approximately 40% of the workforce.  The tax code pre Reagan consisted of a marginal rate of 91% and wealth was more equitably distributed than at any other time in our history. It was accepted morality that a progressive income tax and high inheritance taxes was not just fair, but actually sound public policy. A necessary starting point for popular demand that offers a concrete and specific solution  to our present malaise must be the reinstallation of a progressive income tax and the prosecution of off-shore tax havens whose existence has allowed the wealthiest corporations to pay little or no taxes. Presently, half of all international trade transactions are processed through these sheltered accounts whose sole purpose is to evade any contribution to the public welfare. The real, not imagined cause of the current deficit lies in the tax code.

If we are to ever provide the infrastructure repair and replacement for our bridges, roads, water and sewer treatment plants, and schools, to illustrate a few options, we need to abandon WTO and return to a trade policy that nurtures domestic industries and ultimately self-sufficiency to the degree that is practical and equitable. Free trade is not fair trade. If a decentralized, environmentally sound infrastructure, the green revolution, is to replace the toxic petroleum based, centralized economy, then selective tariffs and tax policies whose benefits have been promoted by such distinguished radicals such as Hamilton, Jefferson, and Adams need to be reintroduced.

And lastly, in light of the most perverse Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott, the Citizen United case, advocacy and action must be directed at enforcement of the anti-trust laws currently on the books and not enforced. Ultimately, at the core of the political corruption, the disenfranchisement of our citizenry, the environmental degradation, and the endless wars to ensure the peace, lies the insatiable need for finance capital and transnational corporations to squeeze blood from a rock, to in effect, get bigger and bigger until eventually only a few merged, mega-entities, and a desolate planet with a ravaged populace remains. Numerous small firms, a more competitive landscape, scale appropriate to community influence, and cooperative ventures are all desirable alternatives that can fill the void left in the wake of Wal-Mart like concentrations.

A reconstruction is over due. If we, the vast majority, are reasonable to seek a better tomorrow and a legacy worth leaving then the modest, concrete, and achievable modest proposals suggested here, which are by no means novel, but rather a rediscovery of proven past practice are real possibilities for a popular movement of change. We have no need for change that requires belief as its only ingredient, but change that embraces caring, commitment, and a challenge to the status quo.

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