Thursday, January 10, 2008

Middle class help

John Edwards has done a pretty good job identifying the problems facing the middle class. But what does he propose to do about them? The mainstream media is all over that question, hot damn!

Oh, right. They're saving their precious typing power for haircuts or Hillary sobbing like a toddler (they wish!) or Obama's middle name (or maybe his ears). Yup, they know substance when they see it. Maureen Dowd, now there's substance. Something's gotta make her voice that squeaky.

Or Chris Matthews, there's a guy who's insightful. In sight, full ... of Grey Goose, anyway.

Hey, if all the Heathers want to do is act like they're still trying to crash the cool clique in high school, I can give some sass back to 'em.

Seriously, I come not to praise the media but to bury them.

Edwards has many serious proposals that actually would help the American middle class. That's most of us, isn't it? Or do we just want to go ahead brown-nosing the rich, since after all their shit don't stink?

Here are Edwards's four main goals for the middle class:

  1. Good jobs
  2. Secure retirement
  3. Relieve pressure points (he calls it "Remove the burdens")
  4. Universal health care
About as apple pie as it comes. A Republican could pay lip service to the first three and would even bloviate some market-love about privatized universal health care. (The lapdog media would of course be too impressed with the GOPer's power tie to note the utter hysterical bullshit of that claim.) As usual, it's the details that matter, that separate hype from reality.

To encourage creation of good jobs (all pols like to say create instead of facilitate, but I don't have to join them), Edwards wants to put tax money into capital and training for renewable energy. Edwards also wants to fund innovative research.

Is this a good idea? The free market has had thirty years to solve our oil addiction, and GM and Ford are still pushing suburban assault vehicles that could house a family of four in many places in the world. And of course, any Republican who doesn't want to be drummed out of the club has to defend that market outcome. "I may not drive what you drive, but I'll defend to the death your right to drive whatever 7000-lb. vehicle you want." Not exactly Voltaire.

Government research grants have historically led to many innovations - and by no means just Tang. The Dupont family likes to forget how much of their bread and butter was actually funded by the government. Many innovative materials came out of military contracts and NASA. Don't forget the Internet, though of course that's a mixed blessing, since lots of outsourcing relies on the net. The basic research that led to the computer revolution and to the biotech revolution was essentially all done under government contract and then later refined and productized by industry. Transformative technologies are expensive to get off the ground, and they don't always succeed, but seed money can make the difference between an economy that grows and one that withers into neo-feudalism, where the rich make money with money and the rest of us flip burgers.

On trade, Edwards is not a protectionist, but he's also not a fool for "free" trade. Like Paul Krugman, Edwards knows that free trade agreements such as NAFTA have bad consequences and provoke a race to the bottom. He wants trade agreements that serve all Americans, not just the financial interests that are looking for cheaper labor, not matter the cost to people, their careers, product safety, or the environment. The global economy is here to stay, but there's no reason besides hard-hearted elitism that the middle class should be so badly hurt by it. We have a government to smooth out the bumps.

One of the vilest effects of the U.S. tax code is that it encourages American executives to outsource. They get huge incentive packages for sending our jobs overseas. The only reason we're not in the streets over this one is ... I can't think of one. Is TV too entertaining? Or is much of even the Democratic Party too bought? (The Republicans, of course, want to retain this incentive for their people, the rape and pillage CEOs.)

Edwards also wants to raise the minimum wage. Republicans of course want to eliminate it so that people can live in the penury they by God deserve. Think about this: The current federal minimum wage is $5.85/hour. That multiplies to annual wages of $11,700. Who could possibly live on that? (And these are the people whose wages suffered most importantly under the 1983 deal to prepare Social Security for us boomers, the deal the Republicans now want to stiff us on.)

He wants to reform the tax code to reward work. Man, now that's communist! The Bushists think that we shouldn't tax the big money. What they claim is that the rich make the economy grow for the rest of us, but that stuff that's trickling down on us is not money. Tax rates on the wealthy have been much lower this decade than last - which economy was better for the middle class?

I'd make the Paris Hilton tax my first objective. There's no way these would-be celebrity aristocrats should get their massive and undeserved inheritances without a big bite. Maybe they'll have to get real jobs; wouldn't that be tragic. But Edwards doesn't mention that, emphasizing rough income tax and capital gains parity.

Edwards would help aides in nursing and teaching move up the career ladder. I find this proposal curious and unexpected, but he says that health care and education are both growing rapidly. Upward mobility is a key part of the American dream.

JE would also go back to an enforcement environment that would prevent the emasculation of unions that is so popular with CEOs who want to write contracts for themselves that legally loot companies, all the while complaining about how greedy unions are. I once worked for a company that was acquired. The outgoing CEO left with almost $300 million, good payment for running the stock into the basement. If he had given up just 10% of that, he could have doubled the severance packages of all of the 2500 people who lost their jobs.

And the Wall Street Journal quails at the thought of class warfare. Oh my, my angina's acting up, I'm feeling faint, fetch me a brandy, boy. Buddy, the class war has been going on for three decades, just with one side sitting on its hands. That's why the CEO society that Duhbya touted and that Mitt Romney still represents is a fraud on the American middle class. Look at how Duhbya bought it with his $100 mess of pottage.

Only John Edwards would even try to change that.

Hell, that's only item one. A real journalist could get articles out of this for a whole month without ever having to write "margin of error" or "electability" or "fundraising event". I'm not holding my breath.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think I love you.