Monday, November 2, 2009
A PROGRESSIVE MANIFESTO (Part 1 in a series)
As I surf the net and read articles and blogs of all shades of political and economic persuasion, I have become convinced of one thing: conservatives (and perhaps even some moderates and independents) simply do not understand in the least what the progressive viewpoint is all about. They evidently greatly fear that which they don't understand, for they constantly make wild, unfounded claims and accusations against us and distort our positions on issues and the bills our legislators propose. They cynically accuse us of deviousness and lying (perhaps because THEY are so inherently devious THEY find it necessary to lie so often?) and distrust everything we say. This is not civil discourse or behavior, and not what our democratic form of government is supposed to be all about.
Regardless of whether these errant conservative suppositions are borne of fear, frustration, anger, hatred, or mere misunderstanding is immaterial. They are wrong - false - mistaken - untrue - pure fiction. So, to help clarify what we progressives are all about and exactly where we are coming from, I thought I would now begin a series clarifying our positions on matters of the economy, the role of government, religion, foreign policy, national defense, social mores, civil liberties, cultural issues, taxation, and perhaps a few other topics which affect all of our lives as well. I will not pretend to speak on behalf of all progressives in this, my progressive manifesto. I will be speaking for myself, but I do believe what I will present in this series will find resonance with a good many other progressives. Likewise, I will not pretend to have all the answers to all of the problems we currently face. I will only offer analyses of, and broad blueprints for possible progressive solutions of, the issues we all face today. Hopefully, this will make the progressive viewpoint seem more understandable and logical, and even more palatable and less fearsome, to those who profess to be conservatives. At the very least, my hope is to see them become less shrill and over the top in their disagreements with and objections to our positions. Maybe they'll even come to realize that we, just like they, are people who deeply love and care about this country, and are not wild-eyed, disheveled thieves hell-bent on taking all their money or destroying America.
We progressives believe in equal economic opportunity for everyone, and that no one individual or small group of elites should hold a gigantic amount of the country's wealth all unto himself or themselves. We believe our country has the ability to provide for a comfortable, quality existence for all of its citizens. We oppose the concentration of too much wealth in too few places, and we also oppose the effort of some to grab nearly all the wealth for themselves by unfairly denying portions of it to others through market manipulation, price-fixing, wage freezes and cuts, or regressive taxation favoring the wealthy. We view those actions as redistributing the wealth upward to the wealthy, who don't need it.
We do not oppose wealth, nor do we wish to take the vast majority of the wealthy group's riches to forcibly redistribute to everyone else. We simply believe that the gap between the ultra-wealthiest and everyone below them is unjustifiably high, and has been made artificially and undeservedly so. We believe human needs should come before, or at least right alongside of, profits. We therefore oppose acts like shipping good paying jobs to cheap foreign labor markets solely for the purpose of creating much greater profit for business. We oppose the paying of unjustifiably large salaries and bonuses to poorly performing business executives, and we oppose government bailouts to large banks and businesses without a strict accountability and an active repayment process by said banks and businesses.
We favor heavier taxation on the very wealthy and on giant corporations. Those with huge stores of concentrated capital should pay a higher percentage of their incomes in taxes than do very small businesses and those on the bottom rungs of the income scale, simply because those at the top would still enjoy a far greater amount of wealth for further investment or merely as disposable income. We do not view higher taxes on the rich as a form of punishment to them for having riches, but rather as a way of bearing responsibility for maintaining high living standards for our society as a whole. We do not favor stifling taxation rates of greater than 65% as are found in some foreign countries, nor do we favor the current 35% rate on the highest incomes, as we believe it is far too low. We favor a more progressive form of taxation than exists today, perhaps something akin to a 45% tax rate on the highest incomes. That, coupled with tax cuts of 15-20% for the poor and middle class, would spur more consumer spending, thereby creating more jobs for workers and more wealth for business owners, a situation where everybody would win instead of a mere few. Business owners would still be free to save, invest, or spend as they wish, but rather than stagnant capital concentrations occurring, capital would flow more freely and fairly, creating even greater economic opportunity for all.
We believe that people suffering and dying due to starvation, lack of proper sanitation and health care, and from unnecessary exploitation and deprivation while there exists huge pools of relatively unproductive concentrated capital, is an immoral situation that must be acted upon and changed. So long as things stay just as they are today, with the upper 5% of the population holding more than 50% of the wealth, needless stress, suffering, and early death will continue for the other 95%, particularly among the lowest 5%. This is indefensible and unsustainable.
We are a nation built on law. The law provides us with a sense of required order and stabilization which permits all to thrive. Our legal system is not structured so that only 5% of the population can enjoy great feedoms and liberties. It is structured so that ALL may enjoy said liberty. So, too, must it now be with our economic system!
NEXT: THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT